New Delhi: Girls in Afghanistan must be allowed to return to secondary school and continue their education, Amnesty International said on Friday as it published new testimonies from pupils and teachers documenting Taliban threats and violence.
Witnesses told Amnesty International that the Taliban used four schools for military purposes during fighting prior to their takeover of the country: Tughani High School and Khetib Zada High School in Sar-e-Pul; Zakhail-e-Khondon High School in Kunduz; and Alishing High School in Laghman province.
Such use of schools places them at risk of attack, and is likely to make it extremely difficult to deliver an adequate education.
While male students nationwide were allowed to return to secondary school on September 17, the Taliban insisted that a “safe learning environment” was required before girls could return.
However, in more than 20 new interviews, students, teachers and school administrators told Amnesty that intimidation and harassment by the Taliban are causing school attendance rates to remain low at all levels, particularly for girls.
“At present, girls in Afghanistan are effectively barred from returning to secondary school. Across the country, the rights and aspirations of an entire generation of girls are dismissed and crushed,” said Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.
“The right to education is a fundamental human right, which the Taliban – as the de facto authorities running the country – are duty-bound to uphold. The policies currently pursued by the Taliban are discriminatory, unjust and violate international law.
“The Taliban should immediately re-open all secondary schools to girls, put a stop to all harassment, threats and attacks against teachers and students, and cease any military use of schools in Afghanistan.”
To date, while some secondary schools have allowed girls to return, including in Kabul city and in provinces such as Kunduz, Balkh and Sar-e Pul, the vast majority of secondary schools across Afghanistan remain closed for girls.
Several female secondary school students said they had lost their motivation to study because the Taliban seem likely to allow them to work only in a few, specific fields, such as education or healthcare.
Teachers, students and activists across Afghanistan told Amnesty International that primary school attendance rates have dropped significantly in many areas, particularly for girls.
Many families remain fearful of the Taliban, and are too nervous to send their children to school, particularly girls.
The severe economic situation has forced many families to take their children out of school and send them to work.
Millions of Afghans have been internally displaced during and following the Taliban’s takeover of the country, and many displaced children are not attending school.
Interviewees also said there are widespread absences among teachers, largely due to the Taliban’s failure to pay their salaries. This has led many primary schools either to run at reduced capacity, or to close entirely.
At the tertiary level, students reported that while some universities have re-opened, attendance rates have dropped, particularly for young women.