August 2021 marked a dark day in the shadowed history of Afghanistan. the graveyard of empires was taken over by a regime far brutal than the countless ones which invaded it. In less than a month, the country saw a mass exodus never experienced before. While the world is preoccupied with terrorism, security and human rights, education has made the occasional appearance in discussions but never fully spoken about.
In 1999 when the Taliban first took over Afghanistan the world witnessed the blood-curdling brutality of the radical regime. The brutality extended beyond the daily executions and lashing. It penetrated deep into the culture and sought to transform the country into a Taliban Ideal state where extreme interpretation of Sharia ruled supreme. Two decades later The Taliban come with many promises of leniency and equality but the current state of Afghanistan does not encourage the world’s trust in the Taliban anymore.
An estimated 14000 Afghani students are currently residing in India pursuing their higher education while hundreds more wait in Afghanistan to do the same. The future of both these groups remains uncertain as of now with no assurance about future developments. Most students reported that their families have repeatedly warned them to not return to Afghanistan. What exactly does this mean for the future of students in Afghanistan? A brief overview of the events of last month shows nothing encouraging.
Days after the Taliban took over Kabul, students in Kabul University entered the classrooms which had curtains hung in them separating students by gender. This alone caused many women to drop out of college while the rest remain uncertain about further developments. In the previous takeover by the Taliban, Afghanistan saw a ban on women’s education and women’s roles in the industry. and this curtain move of Taliban most certainly reminds everyone of the past.
Since the takeover in August Taliban has released numerous statements and held press conferences in a bid to showcase themselves as a progressive patriotic regime, albeit unsuccessfully. Afghanistan’s education minister and Taliban leader Sheikh Molvi Noorullah Munir said in a video that, “No PhD degree or Master’s degree is valuable today. You see that the mullahs and Taliban that are in the power, have no PhD, MA or even a high school degree, but are the greatest of all.” This apathy and reluctance towards modern education which is present in the majority of Taliban throw a shadow on the future of education in Afghanistan.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid in a recent interview said “Taliban are committed to providing women with their rights based on Islam. Women can work in the health sector and other sectors where they are needed. There will be no discrimination against women,” which directly implies that women cannot choose to study anything unrelated to health and the undisclosed other sectors.
In a press conference, the then Minister of Higher Education Shaikh Abdul Baqi Haqqani said that “Each subject that is against Islamic laws will be removed.” This leaves many in a fix as religious scriptures and modern education often go against each other. Most female teachers have been prohibited from teaching while the remaining are restricted to teach female students alone. The Taliban are replacing female teachers with “good older males” which has further resulted in a shortage of skilled teachers and instructors.
While the Minister also promised to start programs that will send select students abroad for studies, foreign institutions could start questioning the capability of those students who reject anything they consider un-Islamic which also includes gender mixed classrooms and clothing usually found in most foreign Institutions. Qatar has called Taliban’s moves on girls’ education in Afghanistan “very disappointing” and “a step backwards.”
While the Taliban are urging Afghani citizens to stay in the country and promising better future, Looking at the behavior of the Taliban till date, it can be fairly assumed that education, while allowed will be discriminating towards women while men will struggle to conform with the skewed perspective of Taliban ideology infused curriculum. With a ban on female workers, many industries and institutions are in urgent need of skilled workers and the current education system in Afghanistan shows no capability to produce what the country desperately needs.
As the world watches the Taliban sending diplomatic messages to resume trade and communications, it is at the moment unknown of the future of Afghanistan, in its capabilities to restore the war-torn country functional.