Taliban close education centers in southern Afghanistan

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Officials said on Monday that Afghan authorities are closing educational centers and institutes supported by non-state groups in the south until further notice. These centers are mostly for girls, who are forbidden to go to school after the sixth grade.

The Ministry of Education has ordered Helmand and Kandahar provinces in Taliban strongholds to close educational centers and institutes while a committee reviews their activities. It did not provide an explanation for the closures, and a ministry spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

Mutawakkil Ahmed, spokesman for the Education Department in Kandahar, confirmed the suspension of the activities of educational centers until further notice. “The decision was taken after people’s complaints,” Ahmed said, without providing further details.

Despite initial promises of softer rule than during their previous period in power in the 1990s, the Taliban have imposed harsh measures since their takeover of the country in 2021 as US and NATO forces were withdrawing from Afghanistan after two decades of war.

Prohibition of female education It extends to universities. Women are prohibited from entering public spaces, including parks, and most forms of work. Last year, Afghan women were barred from working for national and local NGOs, allegedly because they were not wearing the hijab, or Islamic headscarf, properly and the requirement for gender segregation was not being followed. This also includes the United Nations.

At least two NGO officials in Helmand confirmed they were aware of the Ministry of Education’s order. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

One said the NGO was active in nine districts, providing about 650 classrooms with 20 to 30 students per class. He said that both girls and boys attend classes, but it is mostly girls because they cannot go to schools.

Most of the projects are from UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, with local NGOs acting as subcontractors or executors of the project. Teachers and tutors work in separate classes.

The official added that the ministry’s employees supervise all of their activities.

No one from UNICEF in Afghanistan could immediately be reached for comment.

An education official in Kandahar said that many NGOs are active in the education sector and provide education for girls. But he said there is a need to review its activities as there is no accountability over its expenditures and there are fears of corruption and suspicions that the centers and institutes are ghost schools. The official, the district education director, spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

It was not clear how many centers and institutes were closed or how many students were affected in the two governorates because of the order.