Women in Afghanistan will only be allowed to study at universities in gender-segregated classrooms and Islamic dress will be compulsory, the Taliban have announced.
Sunday’s announcement of the higher education policy was made by Higher Education Minister Abdul Baqi Haqqani, who said women would be allowed to study but not alongside men.
He also announced a review of the subjects students would be taught.
During the Taliban’s rule between 1996 and 2001, women and girls were banned from schools and universities.
This time around, the Taliban have said they will not prevent women from being educated or having jobs. But since they seized control on August 15, they have asked all women, except those in the public health sector, to stay away from work, until the security situation improves.
On Saturday, the Taliban raised their flag over the presidential palace on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, signalling that their work governing the newly formed Islamic emirate had begun.
The policy marks a significant change from the accepted practice before the Taliban takeover. Female students did not have to abide by a dress code, and universities were co-educational, with men and women studying side by side.
But Mr. Haqqani was unapologetic about that change. “We have no problems in ending the mixed-education system,” he said. “The people are Muslims and they will accept it.”
Some have suggested that the new rules will exclude women from education because the universities do not have the resources to provide separate classes. However, Mr. Haqqani insisted there are enough female teachers and that where they are not available alternatives will be found.
“It all depends on the university’s capacity,” he said. “We can also use male teachers to teach from behind a curtain, or use technology.”
Girls and boys will also be segregated at primary and secondary schools, which was already common throughout Afghanistan and women will be required to wear hijabs. Mr. Haqqani however did not specify if additional face coverings would be made compulsory.
The newly installed minister also said that the subjects taught in universities will be reviewed. He told reporters that the Taliban wanted to “create a reasonable and Islamic curriculum that is in line with our Islamic, national and historical values and, on the other hand, be able to compete with other countries”.
Since the Taliban were removed from power in 2001, enormous progress has been made in improving Afghanistan’s education enrolments and literacy rates – especially for girls and women.
A recent report by the United Nation’s education branch, UNESCO, said that the number of girls in primary school had increased from almost zero to 2.5 million in the 17 years after Taliban control.
The report also said the female literacy rate had nearly doubled in a decade to 30%. (Source: BBC)