According to the Afghan Constitution (2004), education is the right of every citizen. Articles 43, 44, 48 of the Afghan Constitution denotes that education is the right of all citizens of Afghanistan. The education offered is up to the B.A. level in the state educational institutes, is free of charge by the State. The State shall devise and implement effective programs to create and foster balanced education for women. It will also improve the education of nomads, as well as eliminate illiteracy in the country, and lastly work is the right of every Afghan.
“WHEN GIRLS HAVE ACCESS TO EDUCATION; THEY DEVELOP THE KNOWLEDGE, CONFIDENCE AND LIFE SKILLS NECESSARY TO NAVIGATE AND ADAPT TO AN EVER-CHANGING WORLD”
Educational Ratio in the Afghan Population
A more data-oriented approach would warrant a look at Afghanistan’s population, women ratio, employment, and education. This would illustrate the current female education status under the Taliban government. According to the National Statistics and Information Authority (NSIA), the estimated population of Afghanistan is 38.93 million. Women comprise 49% of the population.
Moreover, from the total women population, 8,172,139 are under 15 years old. The literacy rate of Afghanistan is 43%. However, according to the Human Rights Watch, only 37% of teenage girls can read and write. On the other hand, 66% of adolescent boys are literate. As a result, the literacy rates reflect the disparity between the genders. Likewise, in another report by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF); 3.7 million Afghan children are out of school, out of which, 60% are girls. According to the World Bank’s 2020 report on development indicators, women made up 21.62 % of the total labour force.
Additionally, according to the 2020 report of the Afghanistan Statistical Yearbook, the total number of students in higher education institutions in Afghanistan noted are 387,946; out of which female students comprised 108,852. The figures included both, government and private universities. Moreover, of the 167 universities, 39 are government and 128 are private universities all over Afghanistan. These universities offer 673 faculties.
The literacy rate of Afghanistan is 43%.However, according to the Human Rights Watch, only 37% of teenage girls can read and write.
Need to Introduce More Female Labour Force
In higher education institutions (2020), there were 2,617 female teachers. On the other hand, there were 16,429 (2019) schools all over Afghanistan. According to the estimate given by UNICEF, only 16% of Afghanistan’s schools are related to girls only. The total number of students studying in schools was 9,588,588, females comprised 3,685,663 students. Similarly, the number of teachers in the school was estimated at 211,454 (2019), out of which 72,480 were female. Notably, according to the Center for Global Development, 70% of the girls in urban areas attend primary school. On the other hand, only 40% do so in rural areas.
Keeping in mind the above figures in the context of girls’ education and their employment, in a broader context, some of these major developments took place in the post-Taliban regime of mid-1990. To recall, during the past Taliban regime, girls were banned from education. Although, it was opposed by the international community, and the Afghans itself, the Taliban did not work out any policy to satisfy the Afghans and the international community in this regard. Not only girls’ education, but the Taliban were strict on women’s rights too. However, after the collapse of the Taliban regime in the year 2001, and the establishment of a democratic government under the principles of liberal democracy, girl’s education and women rights were some of the fashionable words used by Westerners and allies to make a change in the traditional Afghan society and manifest them more democratic.
The decline in the Enrollment in Educational Institutions
As a result, in post-2001, school attendance rose very rapidly. As per the data available, in 2018, more than 3.6 million girls enrolled in schools. Based on the estimated figure mentioned, more than 2.5 million girls got enrolled in primary schools, and over 1 million in secondary schools. Moreover, Afghanistan Statistical Yearbook 2020 noted that, only in the year 2019, 3,561,264 girls enrolled in government general education schools. On the contrary, in 2020, only 62,730 girls got enrolled in educational institutions.
However, with the takeover of the Taliban in mid-August, 2021, the Afghan people and the international community again fears a ban on girls’ education, as the Taliban did in their previous government.
Existing Policies for Female Education
After more than a month of their takeover, on 18th September, the Ministry of Education has issued a statement, where it urged all-male teachers and students to attend the educational institutions without mentioning girls or female teachers. According to the new regulations, only the female staff is to teach girls. However in case, there is a lack of female staff, elder male teachers can take the position. The Taliban leadership on various occasions declared, they would create a safe learning environment for girls to educate. A large portion of the Afghan community supports girls’ education. According to a survey of 2019, done by the Asia Foundation, the support for girls’ education remains high in Afghanistan, with 87% in favour.
Despite the fact that there is no specific policy catering to girls education, some educational institutes are open for girls till 6th grade. Meanwhile some provinces have also opened high schools. During the US-Taliban and intra-Afghan negotiations, Taliban leadership have pledged to allow girls to go to schools. The Taliban have proclaimed that they no longer will follow the policies that existed in their previous regime.
To dictate little flexibility, and as a positive move towards inclusion of women labour force, Taliban leadership have called all women healthcare and female workers of the passport department to return to work. The International community as well as the Afghans have welcomed such policy changes. However, that is not enough for the satisfaction of the Afghans and the international community. Therefore, the latter hopes the Taliban should work out more flexible policies in regard to women’s labour force in both government and private institutions and girls’ education. As per the promises they have made, the Taliban now needs to prove they have changed from their hardcore mindset to a more flexible and time-based approach.
Education and the Way Forward
As a policy suggestion, in context of the education and employment, the Taliban needs to declare their policy about girls’ education, the curriculum, women’s involvement in government, and private employment, as soon as possible. Islamic teachings strongly value education and learning. Hence, the Taliban could not ban girls’ schools on Islamic grounds. Moreover, foreigners also demand the Taliban respect women’s rights, in return for aid and diplomatic engagement. This comes as the international community closely monitors the situation and developments in Afghanistan. Specifically in regard to Taliban governance. As the U.N. Special Envoy on Global Education, Mr Gordon Brown has said; “donors should continue to fund Afghan schools as long as they remain open to girls”.
Therefore, to gain international aid and engagement, Taliban leadership needs to; allow girls to educate, women labour force to join their respective duties. The Taliban on an urgent basis need to declare their regulations under which; girls can join schools and universities and women can join their duties, which is not very clear up till now.