By Zahra Latheef, age 11
Teenage girls and women in some parts of Afghanistan still aren’t allowed to go to schools and colleges. Since the Taliban overthrew the Western-backed government on Aug. 15, 2021, only boys, men and younger girls have been allowed to return to school.
The Taliban also banned women and girls from attending schools from 1996 to 2001, when they were last in power. However, when the Western-backed Afghan government regained control, they were able to return. Since August, once again, girls aged 12 to 18 have been banned from school. The Taliban says girls aren’t allowed to go to school as they need “a safe learning environment,” and promised that girls would return to school “as soon as possible.”
Roya, an 18-year-old Afghan student who was preparing for an entrance examination for university to study law, was supposed to graduate from high school in 2021. “But now with the Taliban taking over,” she told Al Jazeera, “I don’t think I have a future.”
These bans have seriously impacted young women, leading them to feel like they have no future. Many aspired to become engineers or lawyers, but now their dreams have been crushed. Even before the Taliban took control of the country, over 2.2 million girls weren’t able to attend school last year. That’s about 60% of all the schoolchildren in Afghanistan. With these bans, the situation is only worsening.
The prime minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, told the BBC that a reluctance to educate women is not Islamic, and it has nothing to do with religion. “It’s a way of breaking a powerful chain,” education advocate Pashtana Durrani said in an interview with Al Jazeera. “First, you keep girls from education so that they don’t have the skills to work, and before you know it, you’ve deprived an entire generation from becoming part of society.”
Hundreds of girls are now learning in secret despite the Taliban’s ban. Some use online programs, and others use hidden makeshift classrooms. If discovered, they could be punished severely. Either way, they are determined to learn, even if what they are doing is dangerous.