NESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay has expressed deep concern over the Taliban government’s decision to reopen secondary schools for boys and their male teachers only, leaving girls and women behind.
She said that should the ban on girl’s education continue it would constitute an important violation of the fundamental right to education for girls and women.
On Friday, the Taliban government resumed secondary education all over the country but only for male students. “All male teachers and students must be present at schools and resume their lessons from Saturday, September 18, onward,” the Taliban said, attracting global censure.
“UNESCO calls on those responsible for this announcement to clarify the situation and reopen schools for all Afghan students, boys and girls alike,” said Azoulay.
Stressing that the future of Afghanistan depends on educated girls and boys, she called on “all relevant actors in Afghanistan” to ensure that all children have unhindered access to education in the framework of the announced gradual reopening of schools.
She said the right to education for all learners, especially girls, must be upheld at this critical time. “It is equally important that all female teachers should be allowed to return to school to teach, providing a safe and inclusive learning environment for children in Afghanistan.”
“UNESCO warns about the irreversible consequences, if girls are not allowed to return to school at all levels of education swiftly,” she said, adding, “In particular, the delayed return of girls to secondary school may risk them to be left behind in education and ultimately, in life.”
It will increase the risk of girls dropping out from education altogether and expose them to negative coping mechanisms such as child marriage.
“It may further widen the learning disparities between boys and girls, and ultimately hinder girls’ access to higher education and life opportunities.”
“Our commitment to Afghan children is unequivocal, and our collective responsibility is to ensure that the fundamental right to education for each and every one of them is fully realized.”
According to a UNESCO report published on September 10, Afghanistan has made significant gains in education over the past 20 years particularly for girls and women.
Since 2001, the female literacy rate almost doubled from 17% to 30%; the number of girls in primary school increased from almost zero in 2001 — to 2.5 million in 2018.
The number of girls in higher education increased from around 5,000 in 2001 to around 90,000 in 2018. The percentage of female teachers increased from 27% in 2007 to 36% in 2018.
She said these critical gains for the country’s development are at risk if there is a delayed return of girls to school.