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Friday June 21, 2024

Abandoned education

By Editorial Board
March 25, 2022

The people of Afghanistan continue to face a desperate situation. According to UN agencies, nearly half the country's population – including one million children – now faces acute hunger. Nine million people have been displaced, and millions of children remain out of school. The only way the Afghans can get out of what is a very dire situation is if they can access food, healthcare, education and basic governance – all of which requires money. And money the Taliban government does not have, with $7 billion in Afghanistan's funds frozen following the Taliban takeover of the country in August last year. In December, US President Joe Biden announced, in what can only be described as an extremely unjust move, that while half this money would be provided to Afghanistan and given directly to its humanitarian workers, the other half would go to 9/11 victims’ families. It is difficult to see the connection between Afghanistan and the 9/11 victims, since no Afghan national carried out the attacks. At the same time, the UN warnings about the crisis Afghanistan faces are very real and there is no doubt that Afghan people need to be given access to funds in order to survive.

One of the main hurdles the Taliban government has been facing in achieving international recognition has been scepticism over its human rights record, and a key demand has been ensuring girls’ education. To be fair to sceptics, the Afghan government has done little to assuage concerns regarding how it plans to deal with women, minorities, and civil liberties in general. The last time they were in power, the Taliban had banned female education and restricted women from working. This time, though, they had promised things would be different. However, since they took over the country most girls have been prevented from attending secondary school. Much to the joy of many Afghans, the Taliban government had announced on Monday that secondary schools for girls would also open on Wednesday. But, 186 days after the ban on girls' post-secondary education, Wednesday saw schoolgirls in tears as they were turned away from schools, following a reversal of the decision. Not only is this deeply demoralizing for girls eager for an education, it is hardly going to instill any confidence around the world that the Taliban have changed.

Already, thousands of Afghans have fled the country – including teachers. Their absence in itself means a huge vacuum is to be filled, even when schools for girls reopen. Even primary education has been interrupted by the fact that many provinces have not opened primary schools, some have no primary schools, and many parents are too scared to send children to school for fear of Taliban retaliation in some form. Ideally, financial inducements ought not be needed for a government – whatever form it is in – to ‘allow’ girls an education, a basic right of any child in the world. But if the Taliban are serious about being seen as a legitimate government, opening up girls’ schools would be the bare minimum required of them.