The situation of women’s education in Afghanistan since the Taliban took power
A year has passed since the Taliban retook power in Afghanistan, but it is still unclear how the Taliban will govern, approach women’s education, and be viewed by the rest of the world. But certain things are starting to make sense. It seems that the Taliban may be more traditional and repressive than was initially thought. Despite promises to the contrary, women are still not permitted to continue their education past the sixth grade, nor are they permitted to work or travel without a male escort. Minority religious and ethnic groups continue to be killed and oppressed.
In order to resume providing Afghanistan with financial and material aid, NGOs and governments have made public education for both boys and girls a key demand. Education for both boys and girls beyond the sixth grade would be discontinued when the Taliban came to power in August 2021, but it would restart after the Afghan new year, which falls on March 23, 2022. The Taliban said that more time was required for the school curriculum to be revised in order to better reflect Islamic principles, as well as for the creation of a female curriculum and female-specific school uniforms. In addition, the Taliban decreed that women could only be the instructors of women’s courses at colleges and universities. Additionally, it stated that coed university courses were possible but required a physical barrier to separate the male and female students.
On September 17, 2021, the Taliban claimed that schools will open as scheduled, however they only referenced male-only institutions. There didn’t seem to be any choice regarding women’s education. The government hoped to open all schools by March 23, 2022, according to Zabiullah Mujahid, deputy minister of culture and information, who made the announcement to the Associated Press in January 2022. This apparently included female-only schools. In addition, he stressed that Afghanistan lacked the resources necessary to promote education nationwide and pleaded with the donor community for financial support. The Taliban’s acting education minister, Nurulla Munir, and deputy minister, Abdul Hakim Hemat, made promises to various international parties in January 2022 that they did not oppose female education and that older females, defined as those who are twelve years old or older, could return to school once they could create a “safe environment for girls.”
Although it was unclear exactly what a “safe environment for girls” meant, the news that schools would reopen to women was positively greeted by the international community. If women were permitted to attend school, numerous governments and NGOs, including the United States, pledged to promote Afghan education. The Taliban would have to reopen females’ schools before the United States would pay the wages of all Afghan teachers, according to Tom West, the Special Representative for Afghanistan. Similar to this, the World Bank promised to provide Afghanistan with financing that would include help for education in early March 2022. If schools for women were opened, additional funders, notably the Educational Cluster, a coordinating body made up of UN agencies as well as Afghan and international NGOs, agreed to promote public education in Afghanistan.
Early in 2022, it seemed that women’s education was going ahead. However, on March 23, 2002, the Taliban leadership said that girls’ schools would not open, in spite of international pressure and the promised aid from the international community. The day before girl schools were set to restart, this decision was abruptly made. Many females around the nation went to school that day anticipating the return of classes only to discover that their institution was closed. Many instructors were likewise taken aback by this news because they had gone to work thinking that their schools would reopen. The decision to deny many young ladies and their families the chance to attend school startled and severely upset them. Unknown is the Taliban’s decision-making process. It’s obvious that some of their choices have been perplexing and, in many cases, seem self-defeating. The decision not to create schools for older girls past the sixth grade was reportedly decided during a three-day leadership session that started on March 20th at the Taliban’s Kandahar headquarters. The Taliban leadership was brought together at the conference, according to the Afghan newspaper Etilaat-e Roz, to address issues that had become increasingly contentious among different factions. In particular, tensions between the Taliban leadership in Kabul, which must deal with external pressures, and the Taliban headquarters in Kandahar, which is less exposed to external pressures, were addressed.
The Kandahar summit appears to have been specifically intended to reiterate the leadership of the Taliban’s supreme leader. At this conference, decisions were made about a number of other subjects in addition to women’s education. It appears that suitable attire or school uniforms are one of the conservative Taliban members’ main worries about education for older women, or ladies beyond the age of 12, in Afghanistan. The Taliban have stated that they need more time to find the appropriate uniform for women to wear to class because they are concerned that the school uniforms used by older girls may be too exposed. This is a false issue, as many Afghan women educators have noted. The Taliban are grasping at branches, according to Pashtana Durrani, an education activist and the founder of Learn Afghanistan, an Afghan NGO that supports female education. She noted that “the excuse over uniforms is a very last-minute attempt to hide internal disagreements.” Do they require a fashion designer to assist them in choosing the colour and style of their shirts and pants?
For many decades, Afghanistan has struggled with the issue of women’s public education, also known as non-madrasah or secular education. This issue is a part of a larger discussion about the proper place of women in Afghan society as a whole. Women in Afghanistan and their positions in Afghan society appeared to have made significant development over the past twenty years, particularly during the time of the Islamic Republic, the American presence in Afghanistan, and other foreign presences. But this development might be a mirage rather than a reality. It’s true that more women than ever before went to school, and they are now permitted to hold positions that were once considered exclusively male-only. Professors, journalists, judges, doctors, TV personalities, and CEOs were all women during the Republic. Khatool Mohammadzai, a female commander in the Afghan Army who attained the rank of Brigadier General (she was quickly removed by the Taliban). Afghan women continued to dress modestly, but in the past 20 years, the stringent veiling of women prevalent in traditional society had started to shift and gave women more freedom in their clothing choices.