Tens of thousands of Afghan girls began a special two-month school session to prepare them for normal classes that will begin in the spring. Offered by the Ministry of Education and funded in part by UNIFEM, the special session will reintroduce subjects like reading and math to girls who had been forbidden to attend school under the Taliban regime. Principal Tayedah Zahedi of the Amir Alishir Navai School remarked, “I was thinking that when we opened the front doors of the school to the girls, that ignorance and misery were leaving our country from the back door.”
The special sessions are also open to boys, many of whom could not attend school because of the Taliban’s decree banning women from employment. Seventy percent of teachers in Afghanistan were women before the rise of the Taliban. Schools were also in short supply because of war. The United Nations estimates that 2,000 schools throughout Afghanistan have been destroyed during more than two decades of conflict.
Boys with access to school also suffered under the Taliban as the regime indoctrinated them with fundamentalism and war. Textbooks used in boys’ schools included the “jihad manual” which instructed students on how to make weapons like grenades and bombs. Said one boy, a seventh grade student from Kabul, “I hated the war lessons. We want to have lessons that teach us something nice, something we can use. English, science, geography. Like other children in the world.”