Afghan teachers are pleading with the world to not ignore what will become of female students under the Taliban.
Twenty years ago, when the Taliban previously ruled parts of Afghanistan, they mandated that women could not work, drive, or be in school. This time, as they violently conquer the country again while U.S. forces pull out, they’ve promised things will be different.
Abused women have heard that story before, all over the world through all of history.
So while the Taliban publishes a media blitz making promises and urging women to come back to work and go back to school (properly scarved, of course), Afghan teachers are burning their school records and female students are burying their textbooks in their backyards.
Shabana Basij-Rasikh, the co-founder of Afghanistan’s only boarding school for girls, has fled the country with 250 students and staff, temporarily relocating to Rwanda. She does not want any of her students to become another Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year-old who was shot by a Taliban gunman for daring to speak for her right to an education.
Pashtana Durrani, another teacher and the executive director of Learn Afghanistan, a literacy advocacy group focusing on girls’ education, has gone into hiding. Durrani promises to “raise an army, just like the Taliban did – only mine will be of educated determined Afghan women.”
At the end of the Taliban’s last reign, fewer than 12 percent of school age girls went to any sort of school, most of those semi-private lessons in the homes of female teachers. In 2020, nearly 40 percent of the children attending Afghan schools were girls.
“Other governments cannot stand back and watch if this is to be stripped away and can use their leverage for donor commitments for girls’ education,” said Sarah Brown, the chair of children’s educational charity Theirworld. “The G7’s emergency summit on Afghanistan next week should also step up. The playbook exists to roll out safe schools in Afghanistan with all the guidance needed.”
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