Schoolgirls listen to a speech by Afghan President Hamid Karzai during a ceremony marking the start of the school year in Kabul March 24, 2012. (Photo: Reuters)
Afghan President Hamid Karzai called Saturday on tribal and religious leaders to encourage the education of girls, a right which was denied to them under Taliban rule.
Afghanistan's leader, speaking at a ceremony marking the start of the country's school year, also urged insurgent groups not to attack teachers and school children, saying that the country could only develop through the spread of education.
"Most importantly, I call on the religious scholars and tribal elders who are present today in the ceremony to encourage the education of girls, Karzai said.
"To encourage children towards education particularly the education of girls is vital and important."
Under Taliban rule between 1996 and 2001 women were banned from education and work, and even from leaving their homes unaccompanied.
Karzai said: "I call on the insurgent groups particularly the Taliban as I called on them over the past 10 years, not to stop children from education.
"The prevention of children from education is enmity with the people of Afghanistan.
"I will call on the insurgents not to attack teachers, religious scholars, schoolgoing children."
"We are still among the least developed countries and undoubtedly we can develop only through education."
He said the prevention of education would keep Afghanistan in a "miserable condition".
In 2002 only one million Afghan children were enrolled in school while in 2010 30 percent of teachers in Afghanistan were women.
Ghulam Farooq Warak, the minister for education, said: "We have 8.4 million schoolgoing children in Afghanistan and 39% of them are girls."
He added that 9.5 million children were still being deprived of education in the country.
Afghanistan has had only rare moments of peace over the past 30 years, its education system being undermined by the Soviet invasion of 1979, a civil war in the 1990s and five years of Taliban rule.