In late August, the Taliban announced that allowing women to study in universities and schools would be "very special conditions."

Little by little, the Taliban have begun to deny their promises to preserve women's rights, including their right to education, but this time in a seemingly indirect way, not as strictly as in 1996.

In late August, the Taliban announced that allowing women to study in universities and schools would be "very special conditions."

A Taliban official in charge of education said Afghan women would be allowed to study at university, but not in the same room as men.

Under new rules, male teachers would not be allowed to educate female students.

According to education activists, the Taliban are seeking to close thousands of schools and educational centers owned and supervised by women.

All these actions, if implemented, mean erasing the remarkable achievements of Afghanistan over the past 20 years, both qualitatively and quantitatively, in terms of girls' education.

These measures threaten to deprive millions of girls of their education, and consequently to spread illiteracy among them.


Surge in education

Figures released by the Afghan Ministry of Education last year were very encouraging, according to many, with 3.8 million Afghan students studying at various pre-university levels, accounting for more than 40 percent of the group of Afghan students at various levels.

This shift occurred in just 20 years, with only 5,000 Afghan students studying in 2001, all in areas that were outside Taliban control in the north of the country, and the militant movement was denying women education.

In 2003, 1,000 Afghan female students took the secondary school diploma, a figure that jumped to more than 78,000 after just 10 years.

The surge in education came after successive Afghan governments focused on developing education in various regions of the country, building 7,000 public schools, mostly mixed between males and females.

The government has also trained more than 100,000 education staff, more than 34 percent of whom were women. Several countries and UN institutions provided incentives, assistance, and partnerships in the education of women in the country.

Achievements threatened with extinction

But they are soon at risk of evaporation, says Afghan activist Fatima Khadroui, who is cooperating with the Afghan Independent Commission on Human Rights.

"The Taliban's initial instructions will prevent at least two-thirds of Afghan female students from teaching over the coming year, for example, how teachers are prevented from teaching female students, at a time when the teaching staff of female teachers cannot cover the vacuum that can result," she told Sky News Arabia.

"The same is the closure of thousands of schools and educational centers owned and supervised by women, which have been leading roles in increasing women's education over the past years."

Just the beginning.

"These are just preliminary provisions, as further harassment is expected if the movement achieves greater hegemony over the country," the Afghan activist said. Moreover, women are subjected to blackmail and a frightening security threat on a daily basis, as those who were assassinated during the past period was the second category of targeting after journalists, which is terrifying to prevent them from educating and attending in public space."

Observers estimate that about half a million Afghan students attend school each year, while more than 100,000 graduate from high school each year.

Taliban restrictions could deprive 80 percent of them girls of the right to education, which could lead to a resurgence of illiteracy and up to 90 percent in the next 10 years alone, if the Taliban were to settle down and apply what they had previously been, according to some estimates.

Afghan women, girls fear return to 'dark days' as Taliban enter Kabul • FRANCE 24 English

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