24 Mar 2011

Taliban urged to stop burning schools

3:32 pm on 24 March 2011

President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has called on the Taliban to stop burning down schools.

Mr Karzai says if the Taliban wants foreigners to leave Afghanistan, they should allow the next generation to have an education and become independent.

In a televised address to mark the first day of school after the Afghan New Year holiday, he said burning schools is a cowardly act. The Taliban have targeted many schools - more than 400 are shut for fear of attacks.

About eight million children are expected to go to school this year, a third of them girls. Female education was banned under the Taliban.

School enrolment has risen sharply since the Taliban were driven from power in 2001, but the BBC reports the estimates still suggest fewer than a third of Afghans are literate.

Mr Karzai also criticised the standard of education in many private schools, saying some were more interested in making money than in providing good teaching.