Doctors save lives, lawyers protect them, but teachers create them. Education is a right that should never be trampled or messed with because it ultimately produces the foundation of every individual. And every person then contributes their small grain of salt to form the whole that is society today and tomorrow.
This trampling of education is a contemporary issue that has been recurring in Afghanistan. The Islamist movement has barred girls from education for two decades now, despite having promised that it will allow girls to go back to school.
What’s the historical background?
During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Taliban outlawed almost all education for girls. Notwithstanding, after the Islamists were removed from Afghanistan grounds, school attendance for women grew quickly, with more than 3.6 million girls enrolled by 2018. The same happened with the number of girls going to university, which is now in the tens of thousands. As a result, women are studying to become lawyers, scientists, and journalists.
Going back to today’s ruling, in September of this year, Afghanistan’s new directors announced that primary-age children and older boys could resume school. However, they spoke no word about when teenage girls could return to the classroom. A few all-girl secondary schools have recently reopened in the northerly region of Kunduz, but there has been no announcement by the Taliban. Some headteachers have been speaking with officials over the requirements for resuming girls’ education elsewhere, and an announcement is supposed to be released to the public soon.
Why is this so problematic?
The point that’s being targeted is the determination that all of these restrictions and norms have had on young women in Afghanistan. Even if the Taliban hold their word on reestablishing the schools, this could still influence future opportunities and their possible limitations under the militant group’s rule. The country has a substantial gender education gap, and UNICEF confirms this by arguing that “girls account for 60% of the 3.7 million Afghan children out of school.” Furthermore, according to Human Rights Watch, only 37% of young women can read and write, while there’s a differential percentage of 66% literate boys.
Why is this a futuristic issue?
All of these Islamic laws restrict women from enriching themselves by education through the notion that knowledge discriminates against gender, and it should never do so. Based on sex, education should always be a human right and it should apply as due process. Moreover, there are not enough female teachers in Afghanistan for gender-segregated classes.
So, if, under law, women can only attend girl-only schools, and female teachers are scarce, then it completely faults the entire system. Just looking back at the past two decades, people can also notice how Taliban militants have endangered girls’ schools. In an article by Time magazine, one girl admitted to the Taliban sending burial shrouds to her school, saying “any girl continuing school will wear these.”
Despite historical events, humanitarian experts note that the Taliban are taking over a different approach from that of two decades ago. Several people have donated billions of dollars to Afghan education, with the increase in girls’ education often highlighted as a success. According to the Asia Foundation, even 87% support for women’s education remains high in the country. Nonetheless, even if the Taliban went through with their promise, these experts argue that “the militants' underlying philosophy has not changed, making it unlikely that women will be able to pursue careers and engage in public life.”
This is the most dangerous result of a shortage of education. Women are needed in public life. Women are needed in all careers men would ever pursue. Someone’s gender is never a subordinate factor in whether they can function well or not. Because as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once said, “A person’s sex bears no necessary relationship to ability.”