The United Nations mission in Afghanistan on Saturday condemned a wave of insurgent attacks on schools, calling for more protection of the right to an education -- especially for girls.
In the past week a girls' secondary school was set on fire in eastern Nangahar province and an attack on education officials travelling in neighbouring Paktika province left five dead and seven wounded, the UN said.
"Over the last year UNAMA has monitored unacceptable levels of violence by anti-government elements directed against schools, education institutions, their staff and/or students," the UN mission said in a statement.
The hardline Islamist Taliban, who were ousted by a US-led invasion in 2001, banned girls from attending school and have regularly targeted pupils and their schools in an increasingly bloody insurgency.
Dozens of schools were recently closed in the central province of Ghazni after Taliban threats, but reopened last week after tribal elders interceded.
"These attacks and acts of intimidation demonstrate a disregard for the protection of civilians, especially children, and of civilian institutions," UNAMA said.
"They are a serious violation of international humanitarian law and of the right to education including for girls."
UNAMA called on the Afghan government and international military forces to "ensure that effective security measures are in place to protect schools, students and teachers," condemning the "heinous" attacks by insurgents.
There are widespread fears that gains made by women and girls over the past 10 years will be eroded when US-led NATO forces pull out of Afghanistan in 2014.