Islamabad: Pakistani Taliban militants have repeatedly targeted schools and colleges, pupils and staff during their violent campaign.

Schools have been bombed, students killed, and teachers kidnapped.

“Any schools, but particularly girls’ schools, are considered soft targets to further the militants’ ultra-orthodox agenda,” International Crisis Group said in their report in June.

The Pakistani Taliban target schools because they “promote Western decadence and un-Islamic teachings.”

Nobel Peace Prize-winner Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head because she was a campaigner for girls’ education.

When the Taliban gained control of the Swat Valley in 2007, where Yousafzai lived, they banned girls’ education and forbade women from teaching. Later, they said girls were allowed to study only until grade four.

In the next two years, they blew up 119 girls’ schools. About 70 per cent have been rebuilt since the militants were driven out.

More than 1,000 schools in north and north-western Pakistan have been attacked since 2009, according to official records.

Most of these schools are public, which means targeting them is also seen as an attack on the government’s authority.

Many of the attacks are done at night with the help of home-made explosives.

Attendance has fallen as parents have pulled their children out in remote villages, where the Taliban are more powerful.

Teachers have also been targeted: In February, three teachers were shot dead on their way home from their government-run primary school in Hangu district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

Three months later, two public high school teachers were gunned down in the same district.

According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, the country has the second-largest proportion of children not attending school in the world, behind Nigeria.