Higher Education Minister, Abdul Baqi Haqqani issued new policies at a news conference on Sunday, laying out the new guidelines for education of women in the country, a day after raising the Taliban flag over the Presidential Palace, indicating a start of the work of the new all-male government, announced last week.
According to the new regulations, Women in Afghanistan can continue to study in universities, including at the post-graduate level, but the classrooms will be gender segregated and a new dress code will be introduced. The curriculum that was taught is also under review by the new government.
During the Taliban’s rule in the 1990s, women were banned from schools and universities. This time however, the Taliban has said that they will not prevent women from getting educated or working. “We start building on what exists today,” Haqqani said, maintaining the Taliban’s position, especially in women, has changed in the last 20 years.
But ever since the Taliban seized control, they have asked all the women, except the ones in the public health sector, to stay away from work ‘until the security situation improves.’ Women have also been banned from playing sports, and the Taliban has used violence against women protesting in Kabul, demanding equal rights.
The new policies mark a significant change from the existing regulations. Haqqani said that, the female university students will face restrictions and will have to follow a strict dress code. Hijabs were made compulsory for women but the policy did not specify if this change meant compulsory head scarves or compulsory face coverings.
Before the Taliban rule, universities were co-educational, with men and women studying side by side. However, Mr. Haqqani had no resolutions about ending this practice. “We have no problems in ending the mix-education system. The people are Muslims and they will understand and accept it,” he said.
He further added that female students will be taught by women. “We have a high number of female educators. We will not face any problems in implementing this. All the necessary efforts will be made to find female teachers for female students.”
About having the curriculum under review, Haqqani told the reporters that “they are trying to create a reasonable, Islamic curriculum that is in line with our religious, national and historic values, and on the other hand is able to compete with the other countries.”
The Taliban subscribes to a strict interpretation of Islam and had banned art and music during its previous rule. This time, the Television has remained and so have the news shows' women presenters; but the Taliban messaging has been unpredictable.
The announcement of the new educational policies comes after hundreds of women, wearing black niqabs and carrying Taliban flags, demonstrated in Kabul in show of support for the new government and attacked the women protesting for protection of women’s rights.
Since the Taliban was removed from power in 2001 by the US Forces, Afghanistan’s education sector made improvements in enrolling girls in schools and the literacy rate of the country. According to a recent report by the United Nations, the number of girls in primary schools increased from zero to 2.5 million in the last 17 years sans Taliban control. The report also mentioned that the female literacy rate doubled in the past decade to 30 percent.