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More than 1 million girls in Afghanistan barred from education by Taliban as school year starts

THE school year in Afghanistan started today but without girls — whom the Taliban barred from attending classes beyond age 11.

The United Nations children’s agency says that more than one million girls are affected by the ban. 

It also estimates that five million were out of school before the Taliban takeover due to a lack of facilities and other reasons.

The Taliban’s Education Ministry marked the start of the new academic year with a ceremony that female journalists were not allowed to attend.

The invitations sent out to reporters said: “Due to the lack of a suitable place for the sisters, we apologise to female reporters.”

During a ceremony, Taliban Education Minister Habibullah Agha said that the ministry was trying “to increase the quality of education of religious and modern sciences as much as possible.” 

The Taliban has been prioritising Islamic knowledge over basic literacy and numeracy.

The minister also called on students to avoid wearing clothes that contradict Islamic and Afghan principles.

Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Salam Hanafi said that the Taliban was trying to expand education in “all remote areas in the country.”

Education for girls was also banned by the Taliban when it was in power during the 1990s.  

Despite initially promising a more moderate rule, the group has also barred women from higher education, public spaces like parks and most jobs as part of harsh measures imposed after it took over following the ousting of United States and Nato forces from the country in 2021.

Although Afghan boys have access to education, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has criticised the Taliban, saying its “abusive” educational policies are harming boys as well as girls. 

In a report published in December, HRW said that there had been less attention to the deep harm inflicted on boys’ education as qualified teachers left the profession. 

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