Taliban talks, Afghanistan
Afghan students sit in the courtyard of the Kabul University in Kabul (File) Image Credit: AFP

Taliban’s decision in Afghanistan not to permit girls to return to secondary school flies in the face of all reason and the group’s own public promises to this effect.

Several girl students who arrived for their classes across the landlocked nation on Wednesday were sent home since the latest ruling. In a move seen as an appeasement of their hardline base, Afghanistan’s new rulers seem to have gone back on an earlier pledge to allow girls above the sixth grade to continue education.

This comes at the expense of girls’ education and may further alienate the regime from the international community. Girls accounted for 60 per cent of the 3.7 million Afghan children out of school before the Taliban took over, according to UNICEF.

The surprising decision is also likely to put a pause on efforts by the Taliban to win recognition from potential international donors at a time when the country is in deep economic woes.

In recent weeks and months, the international community had urged Taliban leaders to reopen schools and give women their right to public space.

Taliban’s reversal of their public commitment on girls’ education was so sudden that even the country’s own Education Ministry was caught off guard along with several schools in many parts of country.

Afghan officials attributed the decision to the lack of a religiously acceptable uniform for girls and a shortage of female teachers available to teach gender-segregated classes.

Demoralising as the move is, it does nothing to improve the reputation of the group that banned female education and most employment for women when they were last in power from 1996 to 2001.

The latest decision has not gone down well with the international community, which has made the education of girls a key demand for any future recognition of the Taliban administration.

Notably, the World Bank recently released $1 billion from a frozen trust fund, $600 million of which were channelled through the United Nations, to provide short-term support for health, education and other basic services in Afghanistan.

New developments throw in a spanner in such works as the international community seeks to engage with the Taliban after the group’s takeover of Kabul in August 2021.

Taliban must reverse the decision around ban of female education immediately and make good on their pledge to let girls study and pursue careers in public life.