March 23rd was supposed to be a day of hope and a bright new beginning for girls across Afghanistan. The Taliban regime had promised to reopen secondary schools to girls eager to restart their education after months of disruption. These hopes were dashed by a last-minute change in policy that pushed girls out of school and casts serious doubt over the Taliban’s commitment to girls’ education.
“The policy reversal is deeply disturbing and is a direct violation of girls’ right to education. It impacts the lives of millions of girls and deprives an entire country of the immense contribution these students can make towards a better future. Educators in Afghanistan and around the world will not stand for it. The international community will not stand for it,” stated David Edwards, Education International General Secretary.
Education International has been working shoulder to shoulder with our member organisation, the National Teacher Elected Council of Afghanistan, to advocate for girls’ right to education. Education unions around the world have mobilised in solidarity with teachers and students in Afghanistan, providing support and working to protect Afghan colleagues, especially women teachers whose lives have been threatened.
Since the Taliban took over in August of 2021, the ban on girls’ education has resulted in 200 million lost learning days, with no end in sight. Lack of access to education severely hampers girls’ and women’s chances to live a decent and fulfilling life.
While disappointing, this decision is not surprising. Under the Taliban rule in the 1990s, girls were banned from getting an education and saw their rights severely restricted throughout Afghan society. Since the Taliban took power, most boys’ schools have remained open but only girls’ primary schools have been allowed to operate in most of the country. Girls over the age of 11 were promised they would be able to return to their classrooms this week.
Education International reaffirms the right of every single girl to go to school and fulfil her potential. We call on the international community to redouble its efforts and demand girls’ and women’s right to education as a fundament human right.