Just hours after reopening, the Taliban ordered girls’ secondary schools in Afghanistan to close, causing bewilderment and sadness over the hardline Islamist group’s policy reversal.
Students returned to school for the first time since the Taliban took power in August of last year, weeping, packing their bags and filing out of schools all around the country.
The decision to delay opening secondary schools to females looked to be a compromise to the hardline Taliban movement’s rural and highly tribal backbone, which is hesitant to send their daughters to school in many sections of the countryside.
The international community, which has been asking the Taliban leaders to open schools and grant women their access to public space, will undoubtedly denounce this new setback for girls’ education.
When a teacher entered Zarghona High School in Kabul and stated class was over, children were puzzled and distraught.
Deborah Lyons, the UN envoy to Afghanistan, called rumors of the shutdown worrisome.
Since the Taliban retook power in mid-August, girls have been barred from attending school beyond Grade 6.
Universities opened across the country earlier this year, but the Taliban’s edicts have been unpredictable since assuming control, and while a handful of provinces have continued to provide education to everybody, the majority of provinces have closed educational facilities for females and women.
Private schools and universities have continued to function unabated in Kabul, the capital.
The right to education for everyone has been a sticking issue in international negotiations over aid and recognition of the new Taliban rule, with some countries and organizations proposing to pay instructors.
On Wednesday, reports emerged from various parts of the nation – including the Taliban’s spiritual heartland of Kandahar – that courses will return next month instead of the directive for girls’ secondary schools to resume being followed.
Those that did reopen in the capital and elsewhere, such as Herat and Panjshir, were forced to close within hours of their reopening.
The Taliban-led administration is concerned that enrolling girls beyond Grade 6 may damage its religious foundation, according to Waheedullah Hashmi, the Taliban’s external affairs and donor representative.