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Friday, November 26, 2021

Taliban allows girls to return to some high schools, but with big caveats

MAZAR-E-SHARIF, Afghanistan – When Narges and her younger sisters were finally allowed to return to school last month, they prepared for a new world outside their family gates.

Following their mother’s example, each donned a black dress, black abaya, headscarf and niqab, and a face mask. A few minutes later, overwhelmed by anxiety, Narges’ 16-year-old sister Khadia fainted even before she left the house. When Khadiya finally went outside and saw the Taliban for the first time, tears were streaming down her face.

And yet the girls think they are lucky. In Mazar-i-Sharif, a shopping mall in northern Afghanistan, the Taliban have allowed girls in middle and senior school age to return to class, although most of them have been forced to stay at home in the rest of the country.

Pressured by foreign governments and international aid groups, Taliban officials insist that things will be different for girls and women than the last time the militants were in power and that some form of education will be allowed for them, including graduate and graduate programs. …

Some middle and high schools have already been allowed to reopen their doors to girls in the north, where women have long played a more prominent role in society than in the southern Taliban. Solution highlights how cultural differences shape the new government’s policies in different parts of the country.

But many parents and teachers still question whether the move means the new government, which has so far excluded women from government and most public office, will rule differently than before.

“They can open schools, but indirectly they are trying to destroy women’s education,” said Shakila, mother of Narges and Hadii.

When schools reopened to adolescent girls last month, the news encouraged 17-year-old Narges, a top student to become a surgeon. But it scared 50-year-old Shaquila.

Shaquila recalled crying a few days after losing her job as a professor of literature during the first Taliban regime, which prohibited girls from attending school and women from most public roles in society. She knew that even if her daughters could attend high school, they would graduate in a country that did not match their ambitions at all.

On her daughter’s first day of class, she turned to one of Narges’ teachers at Fatima Balkh High School with an unusual request: “Please,” she said, “make sure the girls are not so excited about their education.”

“This generation is fragile,” said Shaquila, glancing at her daughter Narges. Their name was not disclosed in order to protect them. “If she cannot go to university, she will be completely destroyed.”

Already in Mazar-i-Sharif, the conditions for the return of girls are so restrictive that many refuse education altogether – an echo of the old order.

New rules dividing classes and teachers by gender have exacerbated a severe teacher shortage and threaten to deprive girls of higher education opportunities. Many parents left their daughters at home, afraid to send them to school, where armed Taliban lined the streets. Others no longer see value in educating daughters who will receive an education in a country where job opportunities for women seemed to disappear overnight.

Teachers say that in Mazar-i-Sharif and the city of Kunduz, another major center in the north, where middle and high schools have reopened to girls, fewer than half of the girls in many schools have returned to class.

During the first Taliban regime, in the 1990s, women and girls were prohibited from going to school. These restrictions were lifted when the Taliban were overthrown in 2001, and educational opportunities for women gradually expanded. According to UNESCO, by 2018, four out of 10 female students in schools were girls.

In urban centers such as Mazar-i-Sharif, education has become a vital path to independence for young women over the past 20 years, and schools are the center of their social world.

One afternoon at Fatima Balkh High School, a crowd of teenage girls in black uniforms and white headscarves filled the school corridors as students were kicked out of their morning classes, their chatter echoing in the building’s marble atrium.

At the front gate, a small group of girls struggled to tie the belts of their niqabs — pure black cloth that flutters in the wind — while others pulled sky-blue veils over their heads as they prepared to leave the school grounds. Two Taliban flags are posted on either side of the gate.

The school’s bustling corridors have changed dramatically since last month, when 90 percent of students stayed at home, according to school director Shamail Wahid Sovaida.

Rumors reached some that the Taliban would force young girls to marry their fighters, she said. Most of them had never seen the Taliban before they took over the city in August. Since then, Taliban fighters with old Kalashnikovs have lined the streets.

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International human rights groups reproached the new government for not reopening all girls ‘schools – even though their male classmates returned last month – and accused the Taliban of using threats and intimidation to keep all girls’ schools in attendance. low level.

“The right to education is a fundamental human right,” said Agnes Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International earlier this month. “The policies currently pursued by the Taliban are discriminatory, unfair and violate international law.”

One afternoon, sitting in his office in downtown Mazar-i-Sharif, Taliban education director in Balkh province Abdul Jalil Shahidkhel, insisted that the new government plans to reopen middle and high schools for girls in other provinces soon.

Then he paused to ask, “Why does the West care so much about women?”

“If the world insists that Afghan women are like Western women, it’s only a dream,” he said. “We know, Islam knows, and our women know what to do.”

The Taliban did not clearly state why some girls were allowed to return and others were not. But other recent policy decisions, such as the removal of women from senior government positions and the closure of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, have sent a clear message to Afghan women that even if they can get an education, their role in society will be severely limited.

“What’s the point in school if we can’t work?” Anosha, 21, said while sitting in her family’s living room in Mazar-i-Sharif.

Until August, Anosha studied in the 12th grade, preparing to enter the university to study engineering. But since then she has not left her home – paralyzed by fear of the Taliban.

These days, she spends most of her time alone in her room, WhatsApping with two of her best friends, who fled Afghanistan before the Taliban came to power and also hope to leave the country.

But some girls can’t even dream of quitting. The only way out is to prepare for the future they hope for in Afghanistan.

One recent Friday morning at the Dakik Institute, an educational center that trains students preparing for national university entrance exams, hundreds of girls filled worn-out wooden benches to take a weekly practice exam.

“Girls want to learn more than boys,” said director Hakik Hutak. “They take it more seriously. They have something to prove. “

He took a look at last week’s practice exam results: four of the top five scoring teams were girls.

Sitting in the back of the classroom, 18-year-old Husnia tugged at the brown fabric of her abaya when she explained how the Taliban on Mazar Street rebuked her for wearing brown – a western color, he said – rather than black.

Her 18-year-old friend Hadia threw up her hands and interrupted her.

“They say we have to cover our faces, we have to cover our hands, this is disrespectful,” she said. “Our freedom is to choose what we want to wear – we have that freedom.”

For Hadia, the Taliban seizure of power was a period of trauma.

When the Taliban broke through the city’s front lines, her mother told her to hide her textbooks under her bed and cover the TV and computer with blankets, fearing that the militants would go door to door and destroy them, as they did when they seized control of the city. city ​​in the late 1990s.

Six weeks later, she returned to her high school, where classes, although half full, resumed. She then resumed tutoring for the university exam, pulling books out from under her bed and focusing her energies on taking the exam the following year.

“I don’t know what will happen to the Taliban or not,” she said. “But we have to learn. That’s all we have right now. “

Ruhullah Hapalwak provided coverage from Vancouver and Sahak Sami from Los Angeles.

World Nation News Deskhttps://www.worldnationnews.com
World Nation News is a digital news portal website. Which provides important and latest breaking news updates to our audience in an effective and efficient ways, like world’s top stories, entertainment, sports, technology and much more news.
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