Mr Shuraim Ahmad Malik is an independent political researcher from Islamabad. He writes on national and international political issues, governance and public policy conundrums, and pernicious climate change patterns.
Education for Girls
The month of August marks a year-long callous deportment of the Taliban’s regime towards girls’ education in Afghanistan. Many presumed that in the course of their second stint, the policies of the Taliban vis-à-vis education of girls and human rights would be somewhat different from last time around, but only to their imagination.
The Taliban banned post-primary education of girls in September last year under the guise of reforming the school curriculum and developing a so-called appropriate dress code for girls who have reached the age of puberty as per their interpretation. Since then, no retrospection of any kind has been undertaken on part of the Taliban government to comply with their commitment to the international community with regard to the education of girls.
Taliban promised to open schools for girls beyond 6th grade by March 23, 2022 but did not abide by it. Currently, as per UNICEF estimates, around 850,000 secondary school girls are not able to attend classes due to the retrogressive stratagems of the incumbent regime. If continued, such a scenario would further jeopardize the already deteriorated prospects of human development in the country.
Reasons behind the Ban
Education, by far, is the predominant component to accelerate the rise of a nation from its ruins. The unprecedented ascent of Germany after the humiliation of World War II could not have been materialized if not for education. With only a 29.81% of female literacy rate amidst Taliban in power, Afghanistan hardly stands a chance to incorporate a major proportion of its population in ameliorating its development indicators.
It is imperative to look into the causative factors behind such a grim state of affairs as far as the education of girls in Afghanistan is concerned. First, the discrete religious interpretation of Islam by the Taliban is responsible for their myopic outlook towards girls’ education. It has led to the Taliban’s coercive measures with regard to implementing a specific dress code for grown-up girls in the country.
Second, the school curriculum is thought of, by the de-facto authorities in Afghanistan, as something more aligned with Western ideals, and they intend to substitute it with the one in line with the true teachings of Islam. Third, co-education is all but unacceptable to the Taliban leadership and doing away with it has resulted in the shortage of female teachers, which in turn has placed the future of thousands of girls at stake in Afghanistan.
For the Afghans & Afghanistan
The intransigent stance of the Taliban as to the education of girls will do more harm than good to the social, political, and economic future of the country. The last twenty years have instilled a proneness of education among a vast majority of youth which constitutes almost 63% of the total population of Afghanistan.
Contrary to the fact that 70% of the Afghans still live in rural areas and practice their traditional cultural norms, a better sense has started to prevail in every facet of the society that education will – undoubtedly – be the resounding factor in changing their fortunes. Non-profit organizations like School of Leadership Afghanistan (SOLA) and Learn Afghanistan are making sure that girls’ education remains at the heart of Afghan’s response to illiteracy and unemployment in the country.
It is of utmost importance to integrate a fair bit of 49% of the women population of Afghanistan into its workforce in order to expedite development measures in the country. The question remains on how to improve the incumbent inadequate conditions of girls’ education in Afghanistan.
To start off, the international community should continue engaging Taliban leadership to bolster the prospects of women’s education in the country. For that, the international grants that were apportioned to the education sector prior to the Taliban coming to power have been associated with the Taliban’s commitment to the education of girls, which could be termed as a step in the right direction under the prevalent circumstances.
As per the World Bank, around 75% of the public spending – involving the education sector – was financed by international donors before the ousting of Ashraf Ghani’s regime, which was robbed as the Taliban clinched the throne of Kabul. As things stand, the education sector in Afghanistan would not be able to sustain its ground for the reason that paying the salaries of teachers without international assistance would be all but an exigent task for the de-facto authorities.
To gain global support, the Taliban must assure their commitment to the education of girls in the country as was the case during Ghani’s government. Implementation of a specific dress code for female students is something on which the international donors would have to compromise as the Taliban would not back off from this part of their stance. However, opening the doors of education for girls beyond 6th grade up to the university level must be ensured by all means.
For the sake of securing international legitimacy, it is imperative for the Taliban leadership to display a soft posture towards girls’ education in their country. Equal opportunities for social, political and economic mobility must be provided, indispensably, to every citizen irrespective of someone’s gender, caste, color and creed.
Moreover, the scale of women’s education must be expanded to every corner of the country, especially in the rural areas. For instance, even during the US presence, most of the private schools – 544/803 as per one estimate – were only operational in two cities, Kabul and Herat. Hence, women’s education was not making equal gains during the last regime and the incumbent government is making it much worse.
For this very reason, UNDP ranked Afghanistan 169th in women’s education in its 2020 annual report. A coordinated effort is all but required on part of the Taliban government and the international community to ensure girls in Afghanistan get educated on a priority basis. The future of Afghanistan – and of any country for that matter – is associated with education and the sooner the Taliban realize it, the better for them, and for Afghanistan.
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