Australia

In war-torn Afghanistan, these children are too scared to walk to and from school

Eight-year-old Ghazal walks to school alone every day – despite her fear of kidnap or death. She wants to be a teacher when she grows up. Source: Save the Children

As the world marks 30 years since the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, children in Afghanistan have known nothing but war with serious implications to their mental health.

In a village on the outskirts of Afghanistan's capital Kabul, Hemat walks to school gripped by fear about what might lie ahead.

Every day, the 10-year-old follows mud compound walls that guide him to an informal school, set up by aid agency Save the Children, because there are no schools in his area.

“On my way... I say ‘Salaam’ to elders and read my books,” he said.

Ten-year-old Hemat walks to school every day, worried about his safety – fearful of kidnaping or murder.
Ten-year-old Hemat walks to school every day, worried about his safety – fearful of kidnaping or murder.
Save the Children

“On my way to school, I fear suicide attacks, kidnapping and I’m afraid that someone might kill me.”

A staggering two-thirds of children in Afghanistan are scared of explosions, kidnappings or other forms of extreme violence on their journeys to school, a new report by Save the Children has found.

The development agency surveyed 600 parents and 90 children across four provinces to reveal the extent to which children are living in constant fear for their lives.

The report found children typically also lack support to help overcome their distressing experiences.

Hemat  walking to school. ‘On my way to school, I fear suicide attacks, kidnapping and I’m afraid that someone might kill me.’
Hemat walking to school. ‘On my way to school, I fear suicide attacks, kidnapping and I’m afraid that someone might kill me.’
Save the Children

In some parts of the country, a staggering 95 per cent of parents who were interviewed said their children had already experienced conflict. In the capital, Kabul, it was 65 per cent.

“Whether you're a parent in Australia or Afghanistan, every parent wants the best for their children”, Save The Children’s Mat Tinkler told SBS News.

"It's really important we understand how parents are coping in a period of conflict, in a country like Afghanistan, because that impacts their ability to be good parents, it impacts their children's lives."

The boy packs up his back ahead of another trek through Kabul to school.
The boy packs up his back ahead of another trek through Kabul to school.
Save the Children

Seventy-three per cent of parents said their children felt anxiety because of the war, while almost half (48 per cent) said their children experienced prolonged sadness and insomnia.

According to the report, most children felt the most unsafe walking to school and going to the markets.

“This is devastating," Mr Tinkler said.

Afghanistan has been rocked by a recent wave of new violence and trouble.
Afghanistan has been rocked by a recent wave of new violence and trouble.
AP

"Wherever children are in the world, if they're impacted by conflict or disaster, when we ask them what they want the most, it is almost always to go back to school."

Records from the Afghan Ministry of Education indicate that 1,153 schools have been affected in the on-going conflict since 2013.

Recent years have seen a pronounced upward trend in the targeting of schools - last year was the deadliest for children since the war broke out in 2001, with almost one thousand child deaths, and 377 schools targeted.

Eight-year-old Ghazal walks to school alone, every day, because she wants to be a teacher when she grows up.

Ghazal lives with her family in a small village in Kabul province, Afghanistan. She is eight and walks to school by herself, but dreads the journey.
Ghazal lives with her family in a small village in Kabul province, Afghanistan. She is eight and walks to school by herself, but dreads the journey.
Save the Children

"Students around the world have everything, like school bags, books and proper classrooms, but we don’t have anything here," he said.

Hemat said he is scarred but works up the courage to face his fears every day.

"I want to become a police officer and serve the country," he said.

"I want to end the war and protect people."

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch