Taking a Toll: The Taliban’s Education Ban One Year Later

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The Taliban implemented more than 20 written and verbal orders on girls’ education – with each decree adding more and more restrictions. These decrees, among others, prohibit: co-education; secondary education for girls; some majors for female undergraduates (including journalism, law, agriculture, veterinary science, and economics); And annual university entrance exams for female students. Meanwhile, female undergraduate lecturers face severe restrictions designed to prevent them from interacting with men on campus.

Besides these brutal rules, the Taliban are also targeting girls’ and boys’ schools. In the past two weeks alone, two girls’ schools in Faryab and Paktia provinces and one boys’ school in Panjshir were burnt. These attacks demonstrate a common tactic used by the Taliban to stifle education.

These measures will have devastating and long-term effects not only on women and girls but on the social and economic fabric of Afghan society, as half the population will not be able to contribute to the future of their country.

Hard-won gains

This contrasts sharply with the educational gains Afghanistan has made since 2001. Indeed, prior to the Taliban takeover, the country’s education sector was booming, with girls having access to all 34 provinces at all levels of education—except for areas under Taliban control.

From 2002 to 2021, 3,816,793 girls were enrolled in grades one through twelve. According to the Annual report of the Afghan Ministry of Education for the year 2020-2021There were 18,765 public and private schools in operation. Afghanistan has it too More than 200,000 teachers, including 80,554 women. More than 100,000 Afghan women are enrolled in public or private universities in 2020, and according to 2019 figuresThere were 2439 lectures in higher education institutions. Public and private universities have flourished in the past two decades, providing women and girls with countless opportunities to contribute to the future of Afghanistan.

these Educational progress Promote the broader societal achievements and gains of women. Prior to the Taliban’s seizure of power, 63 women were in the Afghan parliament, nine positions at the minister or deputy minister level. The Afghan judicial system has 280 female judges and more than 500 prosecutors. There were more than 2,000 small and medium-sized businesses owned by women.

This is just a snapshot of how women are increasingly playing vital roles in Afghanistan’s traditional patriarchal society. All this progress has been quickly erased by the Taliban – and it is eroding the hearts and minds of women and girls.

Psychological effect

The evaporation of these developments has had dire psychological effects. During interviews with Afghan women and girls, the US Institute of Peace heard troubling reports of girls dropped out of school who showed signs of PTSD, depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts, saying they felt like they were living a purposeless and uncertain life. future. “My students suffer from attention deficit. Most of them have learning difficulties and show signs of depression and anxiety,” said a ninth-grade teacher from an underground private school in Kabul.

Some even isolate themselves from family, while others have turned to drugs, further fueling them Drug crisis in Afghanistan. Those who use drugs see it as a way to escape and create alternate realities for themselves. “I love being in a fantasy world that I created for myself. There, I’m safe, and I can do whatever I want,” said a student from Takhar Province who told USIP that she was using synthetic drugs. “You’ll probably laugh at me, but in this world, I’m graduating next year.” And he became a pilot.”

Many in Afghanistan share this desperate sentiment. A sixth-grade student from Kabul told USIP that when she thinks about her future, she is “troubled and agitated” and at times “sadness overpowers”. She dreams of becoming a psychiatrist, and her mother, a teacher, tells her that despite the current situation, she must continue to hold out hope for a brighter future.

The mother of an eighth-grade student from Maidan Wardak burst into tears as she shared the concern about her daughter’s mental health. “My daughter wears her uniform several times a day. She talks to herself all day about school, her teachers and her classmates. I feel helpless.”

Afghanistan already had a dearth of female mental health experts, and travel restrictions imposed by the Taliban have exacerbated this situation, making it difficult for these experts to even reach communities in need.

Without counselors and mental health practitioners, these girls have no resources to turn to at this crucial point in their lives.

Go after the teachers

The Ministry of Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice and the Ministry of Education began conducting religious tests for teachers. These tests are intended as a mechanism for the Taliban to dismiss educated and experienced teachers and replace them with those who are not formally educated or experienced, most of whom were educated only in religious schools. The Taliban also created a motivational structure with testing, providing teachers who pass the religious test with a modest bonus or salary increase. A female teacher from the northern province of Kunduz with more than 25 years of experience was fired last fall because she failed a test of religious knowledge last year. “Our society is about to sink into a dark hole that the Taliban is digging deeper and deeper,” she said.

A primary school teacher in Kabul noted that harassment and intimidation by Ministry of Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice officers is now routine. The ministry told teachers that white running shoes, high heels and brightly colored clothing were prohibited. In many parts of the country, teachers are required to cover their faces even inside classrooms while teaching. She said, “We face constant humiliation by school officials appointed by the Taliban inside the school and by vice, virtue, and the police outside the schools, questioning our knowledge of Islam, and harassing us because of our clothes.”

Across the country, the Taliban’s decisions and bans have been met with vocal opposition from men and women, including education activists who work tirelessly to advocate for girls’ access to education. Obedient Allah Wessa is one of those individuals. In 2009, he founded the Pen Path Civil Society and the Pen Path Helping charity to provide education to underprivileged girls and boys in remote areas in all 34 provinces of Afghanistan. Since its inception, the organization has provided access to education to 57,000 children, 35 percent of whom are girls.

On March 27, the Taliban Wesa is being held His whereabouts are unknown to his family. For those who push for basic human rights like Wesa, enforced disappearances and kidnappings have become commonplace. This is the serious violation of human rights This has become a routine practice for the Taliban to spread terror and silence dissenting voices.

Continued focus on the plight of Afghans

These edicts and prohibitions will not go away overnight, and they cannot be neglected. Therefore, the parties concerned must maintain sustained and resolute pressure on the Taliban – at the local, regional and international levels – to allow girls to attend schools and to provide access to female university students and lectures.

Education and protection from discrimination are basic human rights, enshrined in Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Womenthe Convention against Discrimination in Education and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Taliban must be compelled to abide by the principles these agreements uphold or they must be brought to justice in international forums.

Given the Taliban’s resilience in the face of international pressure thus far, there are very limited policy options for circumventing its strict restrictions or forcing it to change behavior. Online educational platforms promise safe learning within the home, but millions of Afghan women and girls living in rural areas have limited access to the Internet. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and Muslim-majority countries have called on the Taliban to rescind their ban, but it has not led to any change, and the OIC is unlikely to become more involved in the issue. The sanctions of the international community had no demonstrable effect.

The international community has largely shifted its attention away from the dire situation in Afghanistan, focusing on the atrocities in Ukraine and elsewhere. For now, it is imperative that the international community continue to highlight Taliban abuses against women and girls trapped in Afghanistan. From Maidan Wardak, the mother implored, “Please be the voice of Afghan mothers and tell the world about our suffering.” This is the least we can do.

The names of the people interviewed for this article have been omitted for their safety.