The Afghan school year begins without classes as students know nothing and teenage girls are excluded
Kabul – Afghanistan’s schools reopened for the new school year on Tuesday, but no classes were held as students were unaware of the start and hundreds of thousands of teenage girls remain excluded from classes. Afghanistan is the only country in the world wherefrom attending secondary school and university.
The Taliban authorities have enforced a strict interpretation of Islam since they rushed back to power in August 2021 following the withdrawal of US-led foreign forces that had backed previous governments during the 20-year war with the extremist group are.
The Education Ministry didn’t publicly announce the reopening of schools, teachers and parents told CBS News, and since the date in the country has long been marked as the beginning of the new year according to Nowruz Persian tradition, most people assumed it was still one National holiday. The Taliban appear to have halted official celebrations of the holiday but failed to notify students’ families that school would be held.
“A letter from the Minister of Education was handed to us by our principal to reopen the school today, but as no public announcement was made, no students came,” said Mohammad Osman Atayi, a teacher at Saidal Naseri Boys High School in Kabul.
AFP journalists visited seven schools in Kabul and saw few teachers and elementary school students arrive – but no classes took place.
“We didn’t send any kids to school in Kabul today because it’s the New Year holidays,” Ranna Afzali, who worked as a TV journalist in Kabul before losing her job when the Taliban returned to power, told CBS News’ Sami Yousafzai. “In the past, New Year’s Day was a public holiday across Afghanistan, but the Taliban ended the holiday so schools were open but attendance was almost zero.”
Schools have also reopened in provinces such as Herat, Kunduz, Ghazni and Badakhshan, but classes have not been held there either, AFP correspondents reported.
The start of the new academic year on Tuesday coincided with Nowruz, the Persian New Year, which was celebrated extensively in Afghanistan before the Taliban returned to power but is now unrecognized by the country’s new rulers.
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of teenage girls are denied access to secondary school.
“The Taliban took everything from us,” said 15-year-old Sadaf Haidari, a Kabul resident who was due to start 11th grade this year. “I’m depressed and broken.”
The ban on girls’ secondary education came into effect in March last year, just hours after the Department of Education reopened schools for girls and boys.
Taliban leaders – who have also barred women from university education – have repeatedly claimed they will reopen secondary schools for girls once the “conditions” are met, from raising funds to reshaping the curriculum along Islamic lines.
The international community has made the right to education for women a key condition in negotiations for aid and recognition from the Taliban government.
No country has officially recognized the Taliban as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan.
Afghanistan, under the Taliban government, is the “most repressive country in the world” for women’s rights, according to the United Nations. Women have effectively been ousted from public life, removed from most government jobs, or paid a fraction of their former wages to stay at home. They are also not allowed to go to parks, fairs, gyms and public baths and must cover themselves in public.
In a statement released earlier this month to mark International Women’s Day, the UN mission in Afghanistan blasted the “Taliban regime’s singular focus on enforcing rules that effectively keep most women and girls trapped in their homes.” .
“It was harrowing to witness their methodical, deliberate and systematic efforts to oust Afghan women and girls from the public eye,” Roza Otunbayeva, special envoy of the UN Secretary-General and head of the UN mission in Afghanistan, said in the statement.