In Afghanistan, girls’ secondary schools were ordered shut just hours after they reopened on Wednesday, March 23 for the first time in eight months. Senior class girls, beyond class VI have been denied education since the country came under Taliban rule in mid-August 2021.
Earlier last week, the Taliban-run education ministry had announced it would permit all students to attend school after the Afghan New Year celebrated on Monday (March 21) this year. However, senior girls were ordered to return home within hours of reaching the schools.
The last-minute policy reversal sparked a wave of heartbreak and anger amongst the students, many of whom were in tears as they packed their belongings. There have been unconfirmed reports of senior girls’ schools reopening by the end of the month.
Waheedullah Hasmi, eternal relations and donor representative with the Taliban government said the decision was taken late Tuesday night. “We don’t say they (schools) will be closed for ever,” he added.
Taliban administrators claim the delay is due to the final decision on the girls’ uniforms still pending since girls’ uniforms for older girls need to be in adherence to the Sharia law. However, those in the know say, Taliban hardliners who are still not aligned to the idea of educating girls are resisting the move. The administration’s latest diktat is a move to please the hardliners.
Coming to power after ousting the America-backed government, the state administration has mentioned time and again that the current Taliban rule would be different as compared to its earlier rule from 1996-2001 when girls and women were banned from education and all public life. The group has vowed to respect the progress made in women’s rights in accordance with the strict interpretation of Islamic law.
Coming to power, the hardline Islamist group put gender segregation rules into effect before it allowed Afghan women to continue studyng in universities. When schools resumed after the COVID pandemic, the administration allowed younger girls upto grade VI and all boys, even those beyond grade VII to continue their studies.
The Taliban administration however delayed the reopening of schools for senior girls saying it wants schools for girls aged 12-19 to segregate and operate according to Islamic principles.
In a statement released by the UN on Wednesday (March 23), Secretary-General Antonio Guterres regretted the Taliban’s decision and urged the authorities to open schools with further delay.
The Taliban’s move is likely to backfire as the Taliban government seeks recognition from the international community to provide it with both aid and food. The country has been grappling with a food and humanitarian crisis due to economic collapse after the exit of American forces as the international community cut off aid to the country post the Taliban resurgence.
The right to education for women has been one of the pre-conditions for any negotiations by the international community. Foreign not-for-profit agencies are worried about girls dropping out of school fearing the attacks on educational institutions by hardliners and bleak prospects of employment for women under a Taliban administered country. Agencies like the World Food Program are thus offering school meal programmes as well as cash incentives to high school girls continuing their education.
Also read:International, News