Education Ban Traumatises Afghan Girls
“When I heard about the closure of schools, I felt as if the world became dark on me because [the doors to] education, school and the future were closed for us,” says Yalda.* “And I thought I’ll not be able to follow my dream anymore.”
In March 2022, Yalda, 18, arrived at school in Afghanistan after the winter holiday, excited to start her final year of high school. But instead, she was told to go home, and that she was not allowed in school. This was devastating for her. Not only has she been unable to complete her final year, It means her future is also on hold, as she cannot start university until her high education is completed.
Unfortunately, as of April 2023, Afghan girls can only attain up to sixth-grade education. It has been more than a year since Afghanistan become the only country in the world where girls are restricted from getting education above grade six. The de facto Ministry of Education barred girls above grade six from going to school in March 2022 and from higher education in December 2022.
“As I heard the news that schools are closed for girls, I was shocked and started crying,” says Sahar,* 16, a student who was in 10th grade when the ban was introduced. “I tried to visit my school two times last year, but I was not allowed to enter. I miss my school, friends and teacher,” Yalda continues disappointedly. “While I was going to school, I was motivated and had high morale because I knew I could achieve my dreams through education. I dream of becoming a doctor and serving my society.”
Sahar says, “I dream of becoming an engineer, but now that schools are closed, I don’t have hope to fulfil my dream.”
Like Yalda and Sahar, the dreams of millions of Afghan girls are now indefinitely on hold, leaving a feeling of hopelessness.
As a result of these restrictions, more than 1 million girls are deprived of their right to an education. Sadly, barring girls from education has resulted in an increase in child marriages and child labour.
In the last year, boredom has crept into Yalda’s life, “days without education and without dreams, only home chores.” To pass the time, she joined a local tailoring course.
Sahar was also busy with home chores, such as cooking, sweeping, washing clothes and dishes and tailoring. “I’m completely hopeless and think that we will never be allowed to continue our education,” she tells us.
Education restrictions continue to take serious toll on the mental health of girls. “I’m experiencing stress and mental issues and suffer from not being able to fulfil my dreams,” Sahar says. “I am following the news every day to hear about opening school doors for girls. The day I hear this news will be the happiest day of my life.”
In 2023, an estimated one-third of the Afghan population requires humanitarian assistance. This includes food security, healthcare, education, access to clean water and protection. Over 8.7 million people need education assistance. Education is critical in lifting up populations and ensuring a sustainable future. Education leads to more robust economies, stronger healthcare systems, decreased vulnerability and happier and healthier children. Yalda believes that educating girls is important for many reasons, including that an educated woman will also educate her family – resulting in a trickle-down effect of a better educated community, leading to stronger, more resilient communities. Yalda says that the only dream she has now is to see school doors open for Afghan girls. She calls on the global community to advocate for girls’ right to an education and to help Afghan girls achieve their dreams. “If we are educated, we can have better work opportunities and we can better support our families and societies,” Sahar says.
* Names are changed to protect identities.