Enhancing Access to Education: Challenges and Opportunities in Afghanistan

In 1996, the Taliban movement, a majority of who were religious students from Deobandi madrasas (religious schools) in Pakistan and rural Afghanistan, established a short-lived Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. On arrival in Kabul, the Taliban barred women from working at public or private institutions and banned girls from schools. The Taliban regime said that the ban was because of a lack of facilities and security. This position of the Taliban on girls’ education also reflected some realities of rural Afghanistan, where girls’ education has been neglected for cultural and socio-economic reasons, and where there has been suspicion of general education (maktab) imported by the state.

After being overthrown by the U.S.-led offensive in 2001, the Taliban transformed to an insurgency based in Pakistan against the international presence in Afghanistan and the government it was supporting. As they launched attacks and administered some areas that came under their control, they both exhibited their previous hostility toward general education and fitfully developed new positions, more consistent with the contemporary realities of Afghanistan.

This study examines Taliban positions toward girls’ education. In particularly it looks at the trends and changes in Taliban positions. Especially in the early phases of the insurgency, Taliban launched attacks on schools and teachers, forcing schools to close in some areas.  Officially the Taliban has proclaimed education as farz (a religious duty) for both men and women, within the parameters of sharia, meaning separation of the sexes, among other things. They claim to have ceased attacks on schools and teachers. In some areas local elders, NGOs, and even Ministry of Education officials have been able to negotiate with Taliban to keep schools open; in other areas similar efforts have failed.

The report examines ways to enhance access to education in Taliban influenced areas. It is intended to inform further thinking by the Government of Afghanistan (GoA) and others about how to realize the GoA’s vision of providing equitable access to quality education for all. The study does not purport to be a comprehensive analysis of Taliban practices. Its value consists mainly in the primary accounts of people living in Taliban-influenced and Taliban-controlled areas. The associated analysis attempts to place those accounts within a framework useful for future efforts to improve the situation.

Read the full report, Enhancing Access to Education: Challenges Opportunities in Afghanistan.

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May 26, 2016
Barnett Rubin, Clancy Rudeforth
South Asia, Afghanistan