Taliban announcement a clear sign that girls are going back to school

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Schools for all students will open this week, the Taliban-led Ministry of Education announced Monday in the clearest sign of girls being allowed to go back to school.

Girls have not received an education since the Taliban returned to power last August.

The international community has relentlessly urged Afghan Taliban rulers to return girls to school. Earlier this year, the new rulers opened universities for women, although the classes are segregated by gender. They also promised that girls would be allowed to return to class in all classes after the Afghan New Year, which was celebrated on Monday.

The statement said classes will begin on Wednesday.

The ministry’s statement does not specifically refer to girls, but it reads: “The Ministry of Education assures the nation that it is committed to the right to education of all its citizens.”

The statement says the ministry is also “working hard to eliminate all forms of discrimination”, without elaborating further. It calls on all Afghans to send their children to schools or madrassas, which are religious educational facilities.

The Taliban rulers have imposed no restrictions on the types of courses that women can take at university. But music, which was previously taught, is no longer available. While the Taliban have not banned music and musicians have occasionally appeared on local TV, music is frowned upon by the religion-driven rulers.

When they last ruled, music was banned, girls were denied an education and women were not allowed to work and had to wear the all-encompassing burqa. The Taliban were ousted in 2001 by a US-led coalition.

After returning to power last August after America’s chaotic end to 20 years of war in Afghanistan, a nervous international community watched as the Taliban sent women home from work and closed public universities in all but ten provinces. They only let boys go to school after 7th grade.

The Taliban have not reimposed the burqa, although women are required to wear the hijab, which can be any covering, including a large scarf, provided the head is covered.

The Taliban rulers have also allowed women to work again in the ministries of health and education and at the Kabul International Airport, where they are at passport control and customs. They have also returned to work in the private sector and for non-governmental aid organizations.

Yet women are no longer employed in other ministries.

The World Food Program will ramp up its school meal program and provide financial assistance to high school students to encourage them to stay in school.

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