The Taliban may have marked one year in power, but girls in northern Afghanistan are continuing to attend high school classes at schools that a Lacombe-based charity helped build.
These students seem to be the exception after Taliban rulers unexpectedly decided against reopening schools to girls beyond the sixth grade in March.
Eric Rajah, co-founder of A Better World Canada, said girls in the south and in the country’s capital Kabul have been impacted, but schools were definitely open for girls up to Grade 12 in the north where the charity has about eight schools.
“Up north we’re still hanging in there. We’ve been really fortunate. But you never know from day to day what’s going to happen,” said Rajah who received an update about three weeks ago from the schools’ project manager in Afghanistan.
“I do know one of our schools in Kabul has been reduced to Grade 6, and the extra space is being used by the boys beyond Grade 6.”
No damage has been reported to any of the schools, he added.
In the spring foreign ministers from several countries, and diplomats from the United Nations, called on the Taliban to reverse their decision to deny education beyond Grade 6 to girls. Demands to expand classroom access for girls was renewed this week on the anniversary of the takeover of the Taliban.
Rajah was dismayed by the cancellation of classes for older girls.
“I cannot believe it. We had a good 15 years and got a whole generation out of high school. Now it’s going backwards.”
Rajah said in the north moderate Taliban leaders have recognized the impact on the economy if girls are not allowed to go to school and supply Afghanistan with much-needed workers. But access to higher education remains a struggle for girls.
A Better World has been trying since last fall to help one of its graduates who was accepted at MacEwan University. She had been attending law school until the Taliban shut the program down.
“She has to go to Pakistan to get the visa and she’s not being allowed to go there.”
In the last 12 months the charity has also been supporting teachers and some of the families working at the schools because they have not been paid on a regular basis by the government.