Fourteen months after the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, thousands of girl students are in disbelief that they cannot continue their studies. Since the Taliban took over last year in August, a series of directives restricted women and girls from participating in public life and studying in coeducation colleges and schools. It led to the closure of many schools.
Despite some early protests by the students, parents and appeals by different countries requesting the ruling Taliban government to allow the girls to study, no initiatives have been taken except some assurances by an administration that schools will soon be opening.
The last assurance came on October 7. According to the local Afghan news agencies, The Islamic Emirate’s spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said that efforts are ongoing to reopen girls’ schools above the sixth grade in the country. “Efforts are ongoing in the nation to address this issue, and with God’s help, all issues will be resolved,” Mujahid said.
The head of the Afghanistan Technical and Vocational Education and Training Authority, Ghulam Haidar Shuhamat, said that religious scholars are consulting over the decision on the reopening of schools for girls.
He made the remarks during an educational meeting in Parwan last month, which was attended by around 300 members of the Islamic Emirate and government employees, as well as clerics. “The clerics from all over the country are deciding on schools, and we are sure that our clerics will find a good solution,” Shehamat said.
“Those girls that were registered before with us, their inclusion is in place and not cancelled–it is just pending,” said Sher Mohammad Haqqani, director of the Technical and Vocational Education department in Parwan.
Observers feel that it is yet another eyewash to hoodwink international pressure, and two academic years have already gone by. Girls continue to sit at home without gaining any knowledge or technical training for fear of reprisal attacks.
Since the Taliban returned to power a year ago, girls in Afghanistan have been forced out of high school. Locals, with the support of small NGO’s, have taken the initiative in helping some girls continue their studies at home or in private or secretive classrooms until they can return to formal schooling.
Several residents in Kabul and surrounding towns expressed concern over the ongoing closure of girls’ schools above the sixth grade. They urged the Islamic Emirate to reopen girls’ schools as soon as possible. They added that their daughters are impatiently waiting for their schools to reopen.
“Girls are at home, disappointed. The people need Education, and separate schools for girls and boys should be created within the guidelines of Islam so that girls and boys can learn,” said Haji Awal Khan, a tribal elder in Paktia, to Tolo news agency.
“Learning is necessary for the prosperity of the country. We hope schools should be reopened,” stated Gul Zaman, another tribal elder from Paktia.
Schools for girls were opened but closed after a few incidents of attacks. Parents want their children, including girls, to be educated, and thousands of appeals have been made since last year when the Taliban took over the country’s reins.
When students and schools are targeted by bombs (46 girls and women among 53 killed in the Kabul education centre bombing last week), the fear of schools remaining shut haunts the families, especially girl students who have dreams of succeeding in their lives.
In addition, the country’s declining economy and increasing poverty are directly affecting the girls as it is now becoming difficult for several families, without the government’s support, to send their children to schools.
Hanifi, a businessman in Herat, said, “the only priority for us in Afghanistan is to protect our lives and arrange food for our children.” The essential commodities’ rates are skyrocketing, and most items are available in the market but difficult for us to buy.”
According to the UN statistics, this poverty also leads to malnourishment and makes the situation more problematic.
There has been global pressure on Afghanistan for the last several months to allow girl education through many countries, the UN and other international multilateral organisations.
Several International organisations, including the UN, have demanded the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and asked the ruling government to protect gender equality under the convention ratified by 189 States. Afghanistan has also ratified fundamental ILO Conventions, which remain in force. So, the current authorities inherit Afghanistan’s obligations to women’s rights and gender equality under the convention.
António Guterres, Secretary General of the UN, said that Education is a fundamental right. The Secretary-General reiterates his call on all parties to ensure the protection of civilians and provide them education.
In a recent report, Save the Children ranked Afghanistan among the top countries at extreme risk of ongoing and future crises disrupting girl education.