ISLAMABAD — Afghan girls will be allowed to take their high school leaving exams this week, a Taliban government official and documents said on Tuesday – even though they have been banned from classrooms since former insurgents took control of the country. country last year.
According to two Taliban Education Ministry documents, obtained by The Associated Press, the decision applies to 31 of the 34 Afghan provinces where winter school vacations begin in late December.
Ehsanullah Kitab, head of Kabul’s education department, said the exams would take place on Wednesday. He provided no further details and it was unclear how many teenage girls might take the exam.
One of the documents, from the Kabul education department, said the exams would last from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. A second document, signed by Habibullah Agha, the education minister who took office in September, said the tests would take place in 31 Afghan provinces. . The three excluded provinces – Kandahar, Helmand and Nimroz – have a different timetable for the school year and the secondary school leaving exams generally take place later there.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Najela, 18, from Kabul, giving only her first name for fear of reprisals. She would now be in grade 12 and eligible for the exam. “We spent an entire year under tension and stress and didn’t read a single page of our textbooks.”
“How can we pass an exam after a year and a half since the Taliban closed the doors of the school,” she added.
The Taliban invaded Afghanistan in August 2021 as US and NATO forces were in the final weeks of their withdrawal from the country after 20 years of war. Although they initially promised more moderate rule and the rights of women and minorities, they restricted rights and freedoms and largely implemented their harsh interpretation of Islamic law, or Sharia.
They banned girls from middle school and high school, barred women from most jobs, and ordered them to wear head-to-toe clothing in public. Women are also banned from parks, gymnasiums and fairgrounds.
Women have not been denied access to universities under the Taliban and the implication of the latest developments is that Afghan girls who graduate from high school after Wednesday’s exam could apply to university.
A secondary school headmistress in Kabul said she was told that twelfth grade girls will only have one day to take exams in 14 subjects, with 10 questions in each subject. The principal, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said most female students did not have textbooks.
“Taking an exam doesn’t make sense,” she said.
Female students and their teachers will all be required to wear the hijab, or headscarf, in accordance with the Taliban dress code for women, and cell phones are prohibited during the exam. Girls who cannot attend or fail Wednesday’s exam would be allowed to retake the test in mid-March, after the winter break.
The Taliban’s treatment of women and girls in Afghanistan has come under heavy criticism. Earlier this month a team of UN experts said it could constitute a crime against humanity and should be investigated and prosecuted under international law, an allegation dismissed by the Taliban.