The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has welcomed the reopening of schools in Afghanistan but stressed girls must not be kept away from the classrooms.
The UNICEF has expressed concern about Afghan girls being left behind as the country moves forward under a new Taliban regime.
The new Taliban ministry confirmed in a statement boys will be able to return to school from Saturday, however, concerningly there was no mention of Afghan girls’ participation.
Officials earlier promised girls would be permitted to receive an education – which was banned by the previous Taliban government from 1996 to 2001 – as long as they were segregated from the male students.
UNICEF chief Henrietta Fore welcomed the reopening of schools on Friday but flagged the body was “deeply worried” that many girls “may not be allowed back at this time”.
“Girls cannot, and must not, be left behind. It is critical that all girls, including older girls, are able to resume their education without any further delays,” she said, adding, “For that, we need female teachers to resume teaching.”
UNICEF is advocating for development partners to support education “for all children” in Afghanistan.
Fore further stated UNICEF would continue to urge all “actors so that all girls and boys have an equal chance to learn and develop skills they need to thrive and build a peaceful and productive Afghanistan”.
According to UNICEF data, 4.2 million Afghan children – with about 60 per cent of them girls – were not enrolled in school ahead of the country’s most recent humanitarian crisis.
“Every day that girls miss out on education is a missed opportunity for them, their families and their communities,” Fore said.
She added in the past two decades the number of schools tripled and number of children receiving an education increased from one million to 9.5 million.
“These are important improvements for the country’s children that we must respect and protect,” the UNICEF chief continued.
While the Taliban have reassured the international community women’s and girl’s rights will be upheld under its new government, the hardline group has indicated changes to female roles in Afghanistan will be implemented.
Dozens of women have taken to the streets to protest the all-male government that was formed and calling for female representation.
Demonstrators could be heard chanting, “Don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid, we are together.”
Meanwhile signs for Afghanistan’s women’s ministry have been torn down and replaced with signs for the Taliban’s moral police.
Female former employees also noted they had been locked out of the building.
Pictures showed the building was hung with a sign reading “Ministries of Prayer and Guidance and the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice”.
On Saturday, the Taliban denied claims that Afghan women would be banned from schools after calling on boys, but not girls, to resume education, claiming they needed to set up a “secure transportation system” for female students before allowing them back into classrooms.
speaking to CNN, Taliban Spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said women will be allowed to study.
Mujahid stated the Taliban was working on creating a secure transportation system for girls in grades six to 12, adding, “There are certain rules during their class time that must be obeyed that they could be safe and sound.”
Sources: Reuters, Sky News, CNN