Kabul free school a boon for Afghan girls

KABUL, 11 Nov 2022:

A 2,000-student free educational institution in Kabul has become a modest haven for women seeking to escape Taliban diktats that have kept Afghan girls out of school.

Some 1,600 girls signed up on the day when Ekhlas Naween Educational Centre offered free classes for Afghan students who could not afford schools.

Haseebullah Malyar, who runs the institute, said they had to “filter and identify those in need of free education.”

The de facto government of the Taliban banned education for girls studying in secondary schools in September last year, a month after the Islamists seized power in Kabul.

The ban came on the pretext that the government would adapt the education system to Islamic law – following in the footsteps of the first Taliban regime, when women were confined to the home and barred from work or education.

But the free educational centre has given rise to some optimism for those who have enrolled for free studies.

Ferogh, 13, is one among those forced to drop out of school.

“I am in Class 8. I am not allowed to go to school. It is really tough. I don’t know why this happing to us. We are humans. Restricting us to homes is really, really difficult for a girl,” Ferogh noted.

Powered by a new optimism, the teenager wants to become a painter. “I will paint the Afghan girl’s situation and show the world what we are going through. I know the international community has not paid attention to us yet, but my paintings might do the magic.”

Students can also opt for vocational courses, like mobile phone repairing and tailoring, which are in great demand, said Noori Shaista, 26, a teacher at the institute.

The centre coached 60 students for university entrance exams last month and helped 50 to crack them for higher studies.

Among the successful is Fátima, 19, who secured admission to the Alberuni medical university in the north of Kabul. “I am very happy I qualified for my dream faculty. Thanks to my school, course teachers, and family for making this happen.”

Another student, Razia, 18, also secured admission to the Kabul University medical college. “If a small educational centre can do this, and help qualify 50 students, imagine the results, if all schools and women were allowed to study.”

Some 24,000 females cracked the university exams these tests, out of the nearly 42,000 women who appeared.

The ban on secondary education meant that most of the participants had graduated during the previous government of president Ashraf Ghani.

“If a man studies, we will have an educated individual, and if a girl studies, we will have an educated society. So let us study. The international community should stop politics and step up to support those who have suffered the worst,” said Razia.

But the future of the centre hangs in balance. The institute had initially planned it free for only four months and the management is clueless about how to keep it running.

“I don’t know what to do, as I am not able to keep it running for free. On the other hand, the success of our students makes the situation really tough for me,” Malyar said.

Haseebullah said he had requested the donation from the Afghans living abroad to support the institute but has not received any response.