Afghanistan’s main universities reopened on February 26, six months after the Taliban returned to power. The classes under the Taliban are segregated by gender. There were fewer female students than males as they returned to continue their interrupted education.
Most secondary schools and all public universities were shuttered following the Taliban’s August 15 takeover. There were fears that girls and women might not be allowed to pursue education, as had happened during the Taliban’s earlier stint in power from 1996-2001.
However, the Taliban allayed all fears and made it clear that girls and women will not be barred from education this time around. However, they added the condition for gender segregated classes at university and an ‘Islamic curriculum’ at schools.
Kabul University, the country’s oldest and biggest with a student body of around 25,000 last year, has re-opened without fanfare, and fewer students in attendance.
Students expressed mixed feelings after their first day back.
“I am happy that the university resumed…we want to continue our studies,” said an English major who asked to be identified only as Basira.
But she said there were “some difficulties” — including students being told off by Taliban guards for bringing their mobile phones to class.
Another English student, Maryam, said only seven women attended her class.
“Before we were 56 students, boys and girls,” she said.
There was also a shortage of lecturers, she said, adding: “Maybe because some have left the country.”
No students returned to class at Panjshir University, in the heartland of resistance to the Taliban’s rule.
In Herat, the ancient Silk Road city near the Iranian border and once one of the Islamic world’s most important intellectual centres, students also complained about a lack of tutors.
“Some of our professors have also left the country, but we are happy that the university gates are open,” said Parisa Narwan, studying arts.
Tens of thousands of Afghans fled the country as the Taliban stormed back to power — among them teachers and lecturers who had been vociferously critical of the Taliban.