Days after the Taliban-led government in Afghanistan ordered only boys and male teachers to come back to schools, restricting entry of girls, the United Nations (UN) said that doing so violates the fundamental right to education, the Tolo News reported on Sunday.
The Taliban allowed boys from classes 6-12 to and male teachers to attend schools from September 18. “All male teachers and students should attend their educational institutions,” a statement from the education ministry said ahead of classes resuming.
After the Islamic Emirate’s violent takeover of Afghanistan last month, some schools reopened for girls up to class 6 and women were also allowed to visit universities, Hindustan Times reported last week. However, high schools still remain closed for girls.
In a statement, Audrey Azoulay, the director-general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), warned about the “irreversible consequences” if girls are not permitted to resume schools at all levels of education swiftly.
“In particular, the delayed return of girls to secondary school may risk them being left behind in education and ultimately, in life. It increases the risk of dropping out from education altogether and exposes them to negative coping mechanisms such as child marriage,” Azoulay said.
The top Unesco official pointed out that the learning disparities between boys and girls would widen and would also hinder the latter’s access to higher education and life opportunities.
According to Unesco, Afghanistan has made crucial gains in the education sector in the last 20 years with female literacy doubling up from 17% to 30% since 2001, the Tolo news report said.
The number of girls in primary schools surged from zero in 2001 to a massive 2.5 million in 2018. The number of girls in high educational institutions in Afghanistan also went up from 5,000 in 2001 to 90,000 in 2018, the report added.
Urging all relevant stakeholders in the war-ravaged country to ensure that all children have unhindered access to education within the framework of the gradual reopening of schools, Audrey Azoulay said that the future of Afghanistan depends on the educated girls and boys and the right to education must be upheld at this critical period.