A new order from the Taliban demands that all international organizations providing education in Afghanistan stop their activities in a month and hand them over to local groups.
A WhatsApp voice note began circulating among the Afghan networks on Wednesday, in which the official, purportedly a senior education official of the Taliban in Kabul, demands that all international organizations be given a one-month deadline to stop and hand over their education programs to local groups – with the approval and coordination of the Ministry of Education.
While the voice note targets international organizations, it also shares that for now, they will not target national NGOs but that “a decision has been reached that local NGOs will be asked to stop their activities too, if they do not comply with the rules.” Afghan women and girls are concerned that the new order will further push them away and be banned from all educational opportunities.
In the voice note, the official also suggests sharing the order “verbally” with local heads of the Education Departments. “If international organizations raise their voices, we will issue a written statement signed by the Minister of Education,” the person continues. He is asking all Provincial Education Departments to act on the demand as soon as possible.
Reports of the Taliban pushing out NGOs from the country’s education sector and ordering them to transfer their activities to local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have raised alarms within the Afghan and international communities.
Aid agencies, including UNICEF, a lead agency in education in Afghanistan, have acknowledged the voice message and have shared their “deep” concern over the Taliban’s demand to stop their activities.
UNICEF said in a statement that the order would have a dire impact on the education of over 500,000 children, including more than 300,000 girls. The children could lose access to quality learning opportunities.
The latest restriction on NGOs operating in Afghanistan comes in the wake of a ban imposed in December on Afghan female staff working for international organizations in Afghanistan. The Taliban alleges that women have been violating the correct wearing of the Islamic headscarf, or hijab, and non-compliance with gender segregation in the workplace. Subsequently, in April, the ban was extended to the United Nations as well.
The new measure affects all international organizations, regardless of whether they are Islamic, and only the Taliban Education Ministry-approved Afghan NGOs that meet certain conditions will be allowed to engage in education work. School construction projects are also stopped by the order of the official.
UNICEF, as well as other aid agencies, are seeking further information from the Education Ministry in Kabul to understand the reported directive and its implications better. Currently, approximately 17,000 teachers, including 5,000 women, are involved in UNICEF’s education activities in Afghanistan.
In April this year, the Taliban closed education centers supported by NGOs in the southern provinces of Afghanistan – Kandahar and Helmand, predominantly impacting girls’ education beyond the sixth grade. The Taliban Ministry of Education did not provide the exact reasons for these closures at the time. The Taliban official said they are suspended until “further notice” while a committee reviews their activities. The Taliban has been using these lines, but the officials haven’t completed their reviews in nearly two years.
Since the Taliban takeover of the government in August 2021 and the subsequent economic hardships, international and national aid agencies have been providing crucial support to Afghans through food, education, and healthcare services.
AP 06/08/2023; AP 04/23/2023