Thursday, 1 June, 2023

No Education, No Aid!

Bini Dahal

The Taliban rule has sought to bring about structural changes in the contemporary Afghan society. A strict abider of the Sharia law, the rule has left marginalised communities, especially girls and women, in the lurch. The latest concern is about the deprivation of girls from their right to education.

A new academic year has just commenced in Afghanistan. The girls were hopeful of going back to school as the Taliban had agreed to do so. They were very happy to go to school only to be informed that it would close down soon. Amidst the Afghani officials preparing for the opening of schools, the Taliban apparently had given orders to not do so immediately. Their reason was that a comprehensive plan had to be in place. And that plan had to be in line with the Sharia law and Afghan culture.

Everyone is now unhappy with that controversial decision. Despite the risk involved, girls and women have been protesting against the Taliban’s reversed move, demanding their educational rights. The media has presented how young teenage girls are being allowed to carry on their education in some provinces. But regarding this sensitive issue, the Taliban in the centre seem to be more rigid. So, there are differences within the Taliban. One group is more hardliner while the other is moderate in terms of girls’ education.

The international community has also voiced their thoughts on the matter. A joint statement recently issued by officials from 10 different countries has termed the reversed plan as ‘profoundly disturbing’. As a major donor, the World Bank (WB) has brought about the biggest change. One month back, the WB had approved a fund of US$600 million for four different projects -- education, health, agriculture and community livelihood. It was decided that the funds would be channelised through recipient-executed grants without the Taliban getting their hands on the money.

However, within a month of approving the fund, the WB has suspended all its support. The freezing of the fund is in retaliation to the Taliban’s debatable action. So, as long as the Taliban do not change their discriminatory policy, the WB is not going to help Afghanistan.
If we try understanding the perspective of education through the Islamic religious text Quran, we find that it encourages both men and women to receive an education. But it is the traditional patriarchal system that has ruined the Afghani society and not the religious perspective. It is just that the group has been promoting their agenda through Islam.

Noble Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai was shot right in her head for speaking against the Taliban and for her right to education. The incident where the Taliban had attacked a 15-year-old indicates the level of insensitivity the group holds against girls receiving education. This was the case in Pakistan, where the group has a stronghold.

Coming back to Afghanistan, within the period between 2011 and 2018, the country is reported to have attained a higher level of literacy rate. It was mainly because more girls received education during that time. And this has now reversed completely since the Taliban came to power in August 2021. Without modifying their negative perception towards women and the society as a whole, it may be impossible for the Taliban to lead the war-hit nation towards durable peace, stability, and social and economic progress.