Afghan teenager Amena saw dozens of classmates killed when her girls' school was targeted by an Islamic State bomb attack in May, but she was determined to continue her education. Now, like most secondary school girls in the country, she is banned from lessons altogether after the Taliban's hardline government excluded them from returning to class one month ago.
"I wanted to study, see my friends and have a bright future, but now I am not allowed," 16-year-old Amena told AFP at her home in western Kabul. "This situation makes me feel awful. Since the Taliban arrived, I am very sad and angry." On Sep 18, Afghanistan's new Islamist rulers ordered male teachers and boys aged 13 and over back to secondary schools, picking up an academic year already cut short by violence and the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there was no mention of women teachers or girl pupils.
The Taliban later said older girls can return to secondary schools, which were already mostly split by gender, but only once security and stricter segregation under their interpretation of Islamic law could be ensured.Reports have emerged of girls going back to a few high schools - such as in Kunduz province where the Taliban promoted the return with a stage-managed rally.
The de facto Taliban education minister told the UN children's body that a framework to allow all girls to go to secondary school will be announced soon, a senior UNICEF executive said Friday (Oct 15).But for now, the vast majority are barred from lessons across the country of about 39 million people, including in the capital Kabul.Primary schools, meanwhile, have reopened for all children and women can go to private universities, though with tough restrictions on their clothes and movement.