Women in Afghanistan will now be allowed to attend universities, including post-graduate classes in gender-segregated classrooms, as long as they follow a compulsory dress code.
Higher Education Minister Abdul Baqi Haqqani presented the new policy on Sunday, a day after Afghanistan’s new rulers raised their flag over the presidential palace and announced the start of an era of all-male, all-Taliban government last week.
Women’s rights in Afghanistan got sharply chopped under the Taliban’s 1996-2001 rule. While maintaining the Taliban’s position of its shifted attitude towards women,particularly in comparison to the past 20 years, Haqqani said, “We will start building on what exists today”.
The new higher education policy indicates an apparent change from the accepted practice before the Taliban takeover.
Universities used to be co-ed, with female students not forced to abide by a dress code and where men and women studied side by side.
However, since the policy got laid down on Sunday, most female university students have willingly opted to wear headscarves in line with religious, cultural and personal preferences.
Despite the Taliban’s posturing towards female students, with women banned from sports, reports of the Taliban using violence against female protesters demanding equal rights have come up in recent days.
As far as the new education policy, a group of female students, completely covered from head to foot in black robes, demonstrated in Kabul in support of the rules on dress and separate classrooms on Saturday.
Even before the Taliban came to power, boys and girls were taught separately in elementary and high schools of the nation.
Haqqani emphasized enforcing gender segregation in its new education policy as he announced, “We will not allow boys and girls to study together,” while claiming, “We will not allow co-education.”
“We will continue from where they were left.”
On Sunday, Haqqani said female university students would be allowed education if they wore a niqab covering most of the face and an abaya robe in classes segregated by gender or at least divided by a curtain between the male and female students.
Education minister Haqqani said the Taliban has “no problems in ending the mixed-education system,”
“The people are Muslims, and they will accept it.” He told the reporters while being unapologetic on bringing the policy that ends co-education in the new regime’s plan for Afghanistan’s education.
In comparison to the past era of the Taliban in Afghanistan, “the number of educational institutions has increased dramatically,” he said, adding that, “This gives us hope for a future, prosperous and self-sufficient Afghanistan..we will continue from where they were left.”
While he did not elaborate, he vaguely said that he wanted graduates from Afghanistan’s universities to compete with international university graduates and others in the region.
Earlier this month, the Taliban announced that women could still study at university, and the new government would review all the subjects currently being taught at the university.
The Afghani minister also said that the female students would be taught by women wherever possible.
“Thanks to God, we have a high number of women teachers. We will not face any problems with this.All efforts will be made to find and provide women teachers for female students,” he said.
Haqqani ensured that female students would get resources with special measures to ensure separation at places where no women teachers were available.
The minister informed, “We can also use male teachers to teach” female students only “from behind a curtain or use technology.”
Emphasis on “men can also teach whenever need rises” was made by Haqqani, adding, “but under sharia, they should observe the veil”.
Classrooms are supposed to get curtained off, so they divide male and female students where necessary, and if possible, teaching through closed-circuit TV or streaming will be allowed.
”It will all depend on the capacity of the university,” he said.Some still fear that the new rules will exclude women as the universities do not have the resources to provide separate classes.