Education for Boys and Girls in Afghanistan: before and after the Taliban

Education in Afghanistan is one of the most frequently discussed problems that require certain time and investigations. Many sources admit that the policies of the Taliban were so horrible and strict that any girl could not get a chance to study and enlarge own level of knowledge on the same level with boys. The point is that many female students just could not continue their education, because the chosen programs were too horrible and war-oriented that females did not find it helpful and necessary to visit schools.

The impact of the Taliban on boys and girls’ education in Afghanistan was really great: different educative strategies and concentration on war affairs deprived girls of the opportunity to get education on the same level as boys could do it; this is why the fall of that movement led to positive changes in the sphere of education and promoted girls’ desire to study just like it was described in Seierstad’s The Bookseller of Kabul.

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Contrary to popular belief, the Taliban never officially banned the education for females. Girls under the ages of nine were allowed to attend school and share a classroom with boys of the same age. However, once a girl reached the age of ten, she lost the right to attend the school.

The Taliban put a suspension on female education until a segregated education system could be completely organized and implemented. Abdul Hai Muthmahien, the Taliban chief spokesman, admitted that their movement was going to spend more then $ 1 million in order to build schools and provide students with the necessary equipment “Taliban are not against education” (Baker para.2), and even girls should have a chance to study.

The students, who were fortunate enough to attend the schools that remained open, were taught a curriculum, centered on violence and religion.

At the first grade, children, who were six years old, learned the alphabet not by animals, fruits, or joys, like it was inherent to the vast majority of schools all over the world, but by means of religious and war-like terminology: “’J’ was for Jihad, ‘M’ was for Muhjahed, and ‘T’ was for Talib” (Fassihi para.1).

First graders were also taught simple arithmetic like counting bullets. The fourth grade of education turned out to be crucial for many students, because they got a chance to teach more complex math word problems.

These tasks involve the following: “If a bullet travels 800 meters per second, and the distance between a Russian and a muhjahed is 3,200 meters, then how many seconds will it take for the bullet to hit the Russian between the eyes?” (Fassihi para. 5)

Each year, a student could advance to a new grade, texts, lessons, and homework became even more graphic; the seventh grade promotes students to study the “jihad manual”, the manual that was laden with instructions for bomb making, gun and weapon descriptions and diagrams, and even how-to’s for killing Islam’s enemies (Fassihi para. 6).

Students were subjected to this style of learning until the Taliban fell after a five year reign. “Belqisa could even continue her education if she wanted…Now it was allowed, but she forbade herself” (Seierstad 175-181). So, a child of any sex could get education, the question is whether the child wants to get such education.

In November 2001, since the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan faced numerous troubles because of the period of reconstruction and its demands (UNESCO 137). The sphere of education underwent certain challenges and changes as well: schools all across the country held registrations for both males and females.

In Jalalabad, the new minister of education, Abdul Ghani Hidayat, hoped for the turnout at registration and believed that nearly eighty percent of the city’s eligible male and females would register. Despite the lack of text books, furniture, and writing utensils and supplies, Mr. Hidayat was eager to commence the planning and implementation of a new curriculum for the children in order to present them an opportunity to enlarge their level of knowledge and have the same rights as other people on the world have (Witter para. 8).

In spite of Mr. Hidayat’s enthusiasm and desire to support children and their families, it was not enough to make children return to the schools and continue education. The Taliban’s conditions were so strict and repressive that even their leaving did not help to return female students.

The development of innovative computing technologies, the status of English as an international level, and other changes in curriculums require considerable work in the sphere of education (Moreno 398). Wars, which take place in Afghanistan, have serious effect on education in this country: many teachers are killed in actions, many children prefer to go for a war but not to spend time at schools, and many schools have been already destroyed.

All this damage, created as a result of the war, influences education indicators considerably and increases brain drain. Teachers do not find it effective to stay in the country and train children under such terrible conditions. Those, who decide to stay and protect own native land, face such problems like lack of knowledge or experience.

Some teachers do not even have any pedagogic practice, and make use of every day problems to create new tasks and train students. Lack of education leads to wrong perception of information and interpretation of numerous psychological, social, and philosophical concepts. Even if the fall of the Taliban promotes the development of the educational sphere in Afghanistan, students still face numerous problems and do not have chances to cope with them.

Nowadays, education is available for any citizen of Afghanistan. It does not matter whether you are a boy or a girl. The point is that the attitude to education may be different in each family, and the head of one family cannot accept the idea that his women should spend much time alongside men (Seierstad 262), and the head of the other family is eager to help his women to study new material and be smart.

In general, education for boys and girls in Afghanistan sees considerable changes before and after the reign of the Taliban. The sources prove that in fact the Taliban movement did not prevent education for girls; certain conditions may cause some restrictions, but as a whole, girls got the right to visit schools and enlarge their knowledge.

Of course, war conditions deprive a lot of boys and girls of the opportunity to study, this is why numerous school reforms and additional help should be provided day by day. Maybe, this lack of education and attention to social norms and attitude to this life serve as a serious reason of the war. It is high time to think about the ways of how to educate the Afghan people and explain them how wrong and horrible their comprehension of this life can be.

Works Cited

Fassihi, Farnaz. “2 Bullets + 2 Bullets =?: That Was Math in the Textbooks Used in Taliban-Era Schools.” Newhouse News Service.

Moreno, Juan, M. “Secondary Education in Afghanistan: A Portray of Post-Conflict Education Reconstruction.” Revista Espanola de Educacion Comparada 11 (2005): 381-406.

Seierstad, Asne. The Bookseller of Kabul. London: Virago Press Ltd., 2004. Print.

UNESCO. Education for all by 2015: Will We Make It? New York: Oxford University Press US, 2008. Print.

Witter, Willis. “Afghan Girls Giddy over Return to School.” The Washington Times. (21 Nov. 2001).

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