As the Taliban took over Afghanistan last August, they assured Afghan women that they wouldn’t be denied of their right to study. We now know that it was an empty promise.
Read more about the issues of female students in Afghanistan in this article.
Secondary schools in Afghanistan already reopened in September, a month after Kabul’s fall. But they didn’t open for all students.
Even though over the last twenty years there has been remarkable development of educational facilities and students’ enrollment continued to grow, the inequality between male and female Afghan students hasn’t been overcome yet. And under the rule of the Taliban it has even worsened.
As schools started to open again, UNICEF Executive Directore Henrietta Fore had already stated that, due to the recent conflicts, more than 4 millions children weren’t enrolled in schools. She also added, “around 60 per cent of them are girls”.
Almost eight months later, female students still haven’t been allowed to attend secondary schools, since female-only facilities haven’t been reopened at all as opposed to primary schools and universities. For women all around the country, the present status quo represents a regression to 1996 – when the Taliban first came to power, and Afghan women couldn’t study after the age of twelve (i.e., attend school above the sixth grade).
A new academic year should have begun for all students on March 21st, but the Ministry of Education has announced its decision to shut all female-only secondary schools – with some exceptions across Northern Afghanistan. Since then, more heartfelt protests are taking place in Afghanistan’s capital city, Kabul. More women are trying to join the rally, but their efforts have been mostly vain: Taliban authorities won’t let them fly out to Kabul without a male guardian.
Zabihullah Mujahid, who is the deputy minister of culture and information, explained this decision was the only possible solution due to economic reasons and in order to avoid overcrowded classes as well. What he really means is that the Taliban preferred infringing Afghan women’s right to study instead of allowing mixed classes to be formed, or male teachers to teach female students as well.
However, Afghan women’s right to education doesn’t only concern the Taliban’s domestic policy. The international community has made it one of the pillar conditions to be met by the Taliban government if they want to be officially recognized as Afghanistan’s new leaders.
As a result, the U.N., the European Union and the United States – among some other Western countries – have judged the decision of the Afghan Ministry of Education in an extremely negative manner.
In addition to this foreign pressure, women’s access to higher education would be a benefit for Afghanistan’s domestic economy as well. Quoting UNICEF’S statistics, “each year of schooling increases future wages on average by 3.9%”.
But this can only be possible if the ruling administration is willing to target and solve the structural weaknesses of the Afghan education system – such as its poor sanitary conditions. One of them is the shortage of qualified female teachers, which implies that the few female students usually are on the receiving end of a low-grade teaching experience.