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Updated on: Saturday, September 18, 2021, 09:44 AM IST

Empty promises: As Taliban resume boys-only schools, what about education for girls?

According to media reports, women are being barred from going to work, and scores of them have demonstrated to demand their rights to employment and education
Experts and members of the international community have raised concerns about the future of female teachers and students | File pic | @TOLOnews

Experts and members of the international community have raised concerns about the future of female teachers and students | File pic | @TOLOnews

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Kabul: The Ministry of Education of Afghanistan, led by the Taliban has directed all secondary schools to resume from Saturday, however, the directive only mentions the male students, making no reference to a return date for girls.

This is contrary to promises made by outfit after assuming power in Kabul last month.

"Hereby, students and teachers of all private and Emirati (governmental) secondary, high schools, and religious schools are asked to return," Khaama Press quoted the official directive.

The Taliban announced an interim government last week, with a slew of promises, assuring not to repeat the policies of the previous Taliban regime (1996-2001).

However, reports coming from the ground say differently. According to media reports, women are being barred from going to work, and scores of them have demonstrated to demand their rights to employment and education.

Even UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), while welcoming the reopening of schools in Afghanistan from Saturday, stressed that girls must not be kept away from the classroom.

"We are deeply worried", UNICEF chief Henrietta Fore said in a statement on Friday, "that many girls may not be allowed back at this time".

She added that even before the most recent humanitarian crisis, 4.2 million children were not enrolled in school. Around 60% of them are girls. Every day that girls miss out on education is a missed opportunity for them, their families and their communities.

According to UNICEF, significant progress has been made in education in the country over the past two decades. "The number of schools tripled. The number of children in school increased from 1 million to 9.5 million." The UN agency, led by Fore, therefore urged development partners to support education "for all children" in Afghanistan.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet recently told the Human Rights Council in Geneva that contradicting the assurances that the Taliban would uphold women's rights, over the past three weeks, women have instead been progressively excluded from the public sphere.

Experts and members of the international community have raised concerns about the future of female teachers and students. The newly appointed education minister Shaikh Abdulbaqi Haqqani has said that education activities will take place according to Sharia Law.

A week ago, private universities and other higher education institutions were reopened but the classes were divided by gender. Many people have decried this move, which is set to deprive girls of higher education as major universities in the country cannot afford to provide different classes due to a dearth of resources.

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Afghan women, who were protesting against the all-male Afghanistan's new interim government in Kabul, were driven away by the Taliban. They used whips and sticks against the protesters in the latest crackdown on dissent in Afghanistan, reported CNN.

Meanwhile, the 'Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan' has also shut the ministry of women affairs and replaced it with the ministry of 'encouragement and the promotion of virtue, and the prevention of vice.'

A Taliban spokesperson created quite the stir online after telling a local news platform that it was not necessary for women to be Ministers in the government. Rather, spokesperson Sayed Zekrullah Hashimi explained, they should consider "giving birth" and educating the next generation on Islamic ethics. As he put it, a woman "cannot do the work of a ministry".

During the Taliban's last reign, from 1996 to 2001, women were forced to wear a burqa, not go outside without a male guardian. Prayer timings were brutally imposed, men were forced to grow beards. Moral police were installed in every street, to punish violators with harsh punishments like flogging, amputations, public executions.

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Published on: Saturday, September 18, 2021, 09:44 AM IST
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