KABUL -- The number of attacks on schools in Afghanistan almost tripled last year, cutting children's access to education, UNICEF said Tuesday (May 28).
Attacks on Afghan schools jumped from 68 in 2017 to 192 in 2018, the first increase in such incidents since 2015.
Afghanistan's war, now in its 18th year, resulted in more than 1,000 schools being closed by the end of 2018, UNICEF said, depriving some 500,000 children of their right to an education.
"Education is under fire in Afghanistan," UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in a statement.
"The senseless attacks on schools, the killing, injury and abduction of teachers and the threats against education are destroying the hopes and dreams of an entire generation of children," she said.
Using schools as voter registration centres for parliamentary elections last year was one factor in the increase in attacks, UNICEF said.
Almost half of Afghan children not in school
About 3.7 million schoolchildren between the ages of 7 and 17 -- accounting for almost half of all school-aged children in Afghanistan -- do not attend school, according to the United Nations (UN) agency.
It blamed insecurity, poverty and discrimination against girls, who make up about 60% of children not enrolled in schools.
The Taliban opposed education for girls when they ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.
After they were toppled in 2001, millions of girls began to receive an education.
Still, schools, students and teachers have been coming under increasing fire.
Last month, gunmen blew up a girls' school in Farah Province. The incident followed the killing of a schoolteacher in Faryab Province earlier this month.
According to the UN, 3,804 civilians -- including more than 900 children -- were killed in Afghanistan in 2018, with another 7,189 wounded.
It was the deadliest year to date for civilians in Afghanistan's conflict.