PARIS (AP) — As the Taliban government takes power in Afghanistan, UNESCO warned on Friday about risks to access to education, especially for girls and women.
A new report by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization found that student enrollment multiplied tenfold in the 20 years since the U.S.-led military operation forced the Taliban from power while Afghanistan’s female literacy rate doubled.
While there were almost no girls in primary school in 2001, there were 2.5 million in 2018, the report said. Girls now represent 40% of primary school students in Afghanistan.
“What is at stake in Afghanistan is the absolute necessity of preserving the gains made in education,” said Audrey Azoulay, director general of UNESCO.
According to the report, half of Afghanistan’s education expenditure relies on foreign aid, which may decrease now that the Taliban are in power. UNESCO also fears a ban on co-education and on males teaching females, which would “deal a huge blow to women’s participation in higher education and to girls’ education more broadly, negatively impacting their lives, work and citizenship.”
Taliban leaders have said women and girls will be able to attend school and work in accordance with Islamic law — without providing specifics — even as other prominent members of the militant group have sneered at the idea of coed classrooms and hinted at more reactionary measures.
In August, The Associated Press spoke to Sagly Baran, an 18-year-old Afghan woman who received the highest score in all of Afghanistanon her university entrance exams this year.
“I am not afraid right now, but I am concerned about my future,” Baran told The Associated Press in a video interview from Kabul. “Will they allow me to get an education or not?”