Secret schools..teachers defy the Taliban and organize classes for girls

Secret schools..teachers defy the Taliban and organize classes for girls
Secret schools..teachers defy the Taliban and organize classes for girls
Afghan teachers have begun organizing secret home lessons for teenage girls who are being denied education by the Taliban, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The willingness of parents, teachers, and students to resist the ban on physical education is a measure of how much Afghanistan has changed over the past two decades. It also suggests that there is strong opposition to the return of the strict social rules imposed by the Taliban, particularly in cities such as Kabul.

Teacher Fawzia, 56, sees her new underground work with teenage girls as essential.

“If they sit at home, they will become depressed or addicted to their phones. We need to give them hope that schools will reopen,” said Fawzia, who declined to give her second name.

In turn, Afghan teacher Pashtana Durrani organizes secret classes for girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“If we lose momentum,” she said, “there will be no female doctors, engineers, and midwives.”

Durrani added that about 100 female students in southern Afghanistan are enrolled in in-person and online courses. It also hopes to expand the program to other parts of the country.

After coming to power in mid-August, girls beyond the sixth grade were prevented from attending school, although the movement pledged to open schools for teenage girls.

“We are committed to giving girls the right to education. Islam has given them this right. But there are some issues that go against our Islamic customs and values,” said Akif Mohajer, a spokesman for the Ministry of Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, which was the Ministry of Women’s Affairs before the Taliban came to power.

“Once these problems are resolved, we will allow the girls to go to school,” he added.

For his part, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said, “One of the problems with reopening girls’ schools and universities is economic. If you impose sanctions on us, you further disrupt the process.”

“I have no fear”
The Taliban are pressing for the release of more than $9 billion in Central Bank of Afghanistan assets held by the United States.

In the same context, US officials said that Washington is committed to providing humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, but is reluctant to provide direct support to the new government unless the Taliban respects women’s rights. Officials said legal restrictions mean the frozen assets cannot be easily released.

When the Taliban first came 20 years ago, the level of education in the country was so low, many women were content with basic literacy lessons.

“The level of education is currently high,” said Farhat, 22, who asked to use only her first name.

Farhat indicated that she helps her mother, Fawzia, teach teenage girls, including her younger sister in the living room, but “small classes like this can’t solve the problem,” she said.

“Schools must be reopened,” she added.

Although literacy rates have risen dramatically over the past 20 years in Afghanistan, girls are still less educated than boys.

Forty percent of girls have completed primary school, compared to 70 percent of boys, according to 2019 United Nations data. The newspaper says access to education remains limited in particularly poor rural areas, where there are few schools for both boys and girls.

In a related context, Nasir, 28, a school principal in a Shiite neighborhood west of Kabul, refused to abide by Taliban laws and reopened the school for girls after the sixth grade even though the movement forbids female education by male teachers.

“If the Taliban find out what I’m doing, they will punish me severely,” said Nasser, who did not reveal his second name. “But I take responsibility for my actions. I have no fear, I want the girls to continue their studies.”

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