As schools across Afghanistan prepare for the new academic year next week, secondary school aged girls must be allowed to go back to the classroom after an 18-month ban on their education, Save the Children said.
A failure by the Taliban to reverse this ban will drive up child marriage, exclude half of future generations from the workforce and entrench families further into poverty, having a profoundly damaging impact on the country’s future, the child rights organisation said.
More than 3 million girls who were previously enrolled in secondary school have been denied their right to education since the Taliban takeover[i].
Save the Children is calling for the ban to be lifted immediately and for girls to have full access to education when schools return on March 21.
Aaisha*,16, is desperate to continue her studies when she graduates from a sixth grade community based education class run by Save the Children in central Afghanistan. She said:
“Sixth grade is nothing for us – we want to continue to high school. If we only graduate from sixth grade, we can’t do anything. We can’t get a job, we can’t go to university.”
When asked about her aspirations for the future, Aaisha* said: “My first wish for the future is that girls are supported to go to high school. And the second wish is that girls are supported to go to university and complete [their] education.”
Her mother, Khadija*, 37, has four daughters all at the same Community Based Education Centre, including Aaisha*, and they are all about to have their education cut short.
Khadija* said: “I’m uneducated and I can’t even read a road sign to know where I am, but I want my daughters to be able to do that.”
“If there are no opportunities for higher education, we need to marry our daughters at a younger age because it is not safe for them in the community.
“My future is not good, but I want my daughters to have a good future.”
Save the Children’s Acting Country Director for Afghanistan, Olivier Franchi, said:
“Afghanistan is the only country in the world that has banned girls above sixth grade from education, yet girls here are striving for a better future, and they know the best path to success is through school. When their education is cut short, they face increased risk of early marriage, violence, abuse and other forms of exploitation.
“Every day that girls are out of school is a wasted day – not only for them, but also for communities in desperate need of skilled doctors and teachers, and for the long-term economic development of the entire country.
“It is critical that girls are not left behind when schools reopen. We urge the Taliban to allow girls to go back to school without any further delays.”
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NOTES TO EDITORS:
[i] UNICEF, Aug 2022.
- Save the Children has worked in Afghanistan since 1976, including during periods of conflict, regime change, and natural disasters. We have programmes in nine provinces and work with partners in an additional six provinces.
- Since the Taliban regained control in August 2021, Save the Children has been scaling up its response to support the increasing number of children in need. Save the Children is delivering health, nutrition, education, child protection, shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene and food security and livelihoods support. Since September 2021, Save the Children has reached more than 2.5 million people, including 1.4 million children.
- Save the Children’s education activities include community-based education classes and providing children and teachers with learning and classroom kits. The organisation has also been working with female secondary school graduates to support them to become teachers and to pass the university entrance exam.