In the conflict-ridden Afghanistan, children are the most vulnerable sector of society bearing the brunt of war as many of them lost their fathers in the conflict and are forced to work on the streets to support their families.
Nearly 3.5 million Afghan children, according to Dr. L.N. Balaji, deputy representative to Afghanistan of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), are out of school, although the country has made tremendous achievements in the education field over the past 14 years.
"In 2001 only one million children were in school and almost all of them were boys, but in 2013 and 2014 close to 8.6 million children were in school and 39 percent of them were girls. So, there is a remarkable progress but still close to 3.5 million children are out of school," Dr. L.N. Balaji told Xinhua in a recent interview.
Afghan internal displaced refugee children eat food near their shelter at the outskirts of Kabul October 5, 2012. (Photo: Omar Sobhani/Reuters)
The UNICEF official said that Afghanistan has made excellent progress in terms of number of schools built despite meager resources of the government. He said that in 2001, 6,000 schools were built. The number has since doubled to over 15,000 schools throughout the country.
Despite this positive development, close to 28 percent of Afghan children, aged 5 to 11 years, has been forced to resort to child labor. Many Afghan children work in carpet-making and brick- making shops and some are even hired as helpers in poppy fields in the countryside.
Mojibullah, 15, told Xinhua that because of extreme poverty, he was forced on the streets to support his family after he lost his father.
Mojibullah, who like many Afghans has only one name, said he washes cars in the Macrorayon locality to earn money. He said he was unaware of the celebration of International Children's Day on Sunday.
"I go to school in the morning and in the afternoon I work on the streets as car washer. I can earn on average 200 afghani (some 3 U.S.dollars) daily and give all the money to my mother," Mojibullah said.
There are no official statistics as to the number of street children and child laborers in Afghanistan, but they must be in thousands since they can be seen in Kabul and other Afghan cities.
What is most deplorable is the use of children by the insurgents in their bid to regain power in Afghanistan. Last week, a would-be suicide bomber, who was only in his teens, was captured in the southern city of Kandahar. The police said the boy was assigned to blow up the Kandahar police station.
On the eve of the International Children's Day on Sunday, four Afghan children were killed and four others injured as a rocket slammed into a school building in the eastern Logar province. Two weeks ago, two children were killed in a suicide bombing in the capital Kabul itself.
Concerned Afghan citizens have called on the government to improve the security situation in the country to protect the children and allow them to have a proper education and well-being as they grow up.