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Education under attack

When it comes to militant attacks, governmental departments, security institutes, foreign missions, aid agencies, funerals, hotels and guesthouses are not alone. Education sector is also in the crosshair of anti-Afghanistan forces. Closure of schools, acquiring and exploitation of children for terrorism, attacks on teachers and now poisoning of students in Bamyan province validates the notion that education is under attack, but the government is busy in other affairs, mostly of political nature rather than security.

Eighteen girl students fell unconscious in their school in Panjab district of the province on Wednesday. Yesterday, in the same district but in different girl’s school, 27 students had fallen sick and were hospitalized. On Saturday, 61 students became dizzy and collapsed in another school. Today’s unfortunate incident was third one of its nature in a week—speaking volumes about seriousness of the attack on education sector in a particular province. The depressing incidents had given birth to some theories as the authorities failed to find out a specific cause despite testing blood specimen.

One of theory suggests that the students might have inhaled carbon monoxide as this toxic gas is colorless, tasteless, odorless, and non-irritating in start, thus, making it extremely difficult to detect it, especially in buildings that lack CO-oximeter. Equipments that run on carbon-based fuels or factories are held responsible for production of carbon monoxide. However, in Bamyan, the school, where today the students fell sick, presents a totally different picture. The school is far away from commercial area. Neither extraction of mines nor construction is in progress. Therefore, it is hard to accept the notion, though, it could not be ruled out totally, unless the level of carbon monoxide is determined with help of CO-oximeter.

Some of the symptoms that appear after inhalation of carbon monoxide such as dizziness, nausea, headache and loss of consciousness, are the same, but not all. Moreover, some students are still hospitalized, proving that it was not carbon monoxide but something else. Provincial officials claim that some of the students were laughing and some crying. The former appears to be the cause of inhaling nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, but the latter appears to be the symptom of something else.

Whatever are the causes, it is responsibility of the government to find out and arrest the anti-education elements who are attacking the most vital sector in the relatively peaceful province. The authorities should send the experts trained in bio hazard scenarios.

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