Taliban: girls with a rare chance to study under the Taliban dare to dream
The school has remained open to adolescents because it is run by an NGO, exposing the contradictions emerging across Afghanistan as orders from its new leadership are implemented.
“The (Taliban) came and saw the students and the classes and they were happy because we all had our hijabs on,” Forozan, one of the young teachers, told AFP, referring to the Islamic headgear. .
Since taking control in August, the Taliban have imposed severe restrictions on women and girls, despite committing a looser rule from their first term in power in the 1990s.
In several provinces, local Taliban authorities have been persuaded to reopen schools, but millions of girls still remain isolated.
In Nawabad, the school is run by the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA), an organization that has been active in the country for four decades.
It is in the province of Ghazni, where the Taliban have long controlled part, and where they largely tolerated the education of girls.
In Langar, another village in the district, the only class for girls and young women from another project managed by SCA continues.
âWhen the Taliban took Kabul, we had no hope that they would let the school continue, but they did,â said Mahida, 18.
Her class is made up of 18-26 year olds who failed their studies and are now preparing for the end of year exams.
“We were afraid to go to school. We couldn’t leave our homes because of the war,” Mahida said.
All the girls in Langar hope to continue their studies, to become teachers, doctors or engineers.
But they don’t even know if they’ll be able to pass the college entrance exams.
Even before August, many girls in Ghazni province were deprived of any secondary education due to distance, poverty, early marriages and conflict.
About six kilometers (four miles) away, in the remote village of Jangalak, Zahra, 19, an aspiring engineer, attends a course organized by the SCA for students with gaps in their studies.
The Taliban approved of his education and that of others, although classes on civic pride and patriotism have been replaced by religious instruction.
âI see the Taliban every day when I come to school,â Zahra said. “(They) have no problem with us.”
But in the same building, other female students who were previously enrolled in public classes have been stuck at home since the takeover.
Data from the Ministry of Education for 2016 shows that less than one in five Afghan women can read and write, compared to over 60% of men.
Sitting in a restaurant in the city of Ghazni, the Taliban’s deputy provincial director of culture sought to justify the suspension of education.
“We have to find the money to pay teachers’ salaries,” Mansoor Afghan told AFP.
School curricula should also be rated as “good or bad” and more teachers should be employed, he added.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told AFP he expects high school girls to return to class in the spring.
Even if they do, the next steps dreamed of by the ambitious girls of Langar and Nawabad – college and a professional career – seem more out of reach.
Since August, women have again been largely excluded from work outside the education and health sectors.
Many are skeptical of the promises of the Taliban, which broke their promises on women’s rights during their last reign.
The hope is that the group’s battle to gain international recognition and get aid back in one of the world’s poorest countries will lead to concessions.
“We hope they will reopen the universities and when we finish high school we can go there without any problem,” said Shafiqa, 17, sitting in the front row of the class from Nawabad, who told AFP that she wants to be a doctor.