Afghan Teachers Are Finding Ways Around Taliban's School Ban For Girls

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Afghan Teachers Are Finding Ways Around Taliban's School Ban For Girls
Teachers in Afghanistan are opening secret and mobile schools to continue education for young girls, though the Taliban have banned it.

When the U.S. left Afghanistan a year ago, education was one of the many casualties, especially for girls.   

The Taliban, going back on a promise, banned girls from public school after sixth grade. Now teachers like Sodaba Nazhand are defying the new regime and running secret schools for girls who have nowhere to go.

"After schools were closed for girls, I decided to provide an environment for girls in a hidden school ... and we set up chairs and tables in a house so they can come and study here," said Nazhand, English language teacher and founder of Informal School for Girls.

About 250 students learn math and science inside a house in Kabul, Afghanistan.

"It is very disappointing," said Dunya Arabzada, a secondary school student, through a translator. "It is different to be in a proper school than here, but I see a lot of my classmates who can't come here, and they stay at home."

In a survey of nearly 1,700 boys and girls conducted by Save the Children, 45% of all girls say they don’t go to school at all, compared with only 20% of boys. 

In Afghanistan today, the Taliban parade through the capital, and in southern cities like Spin Boldak near the Pakistan border, there are no schools at all for children. So, school comes to them. 

It's a bright-blue mobile classroom and library where boys and girls grades one through six come to watch videos, hear stories and learn English.

The school is run by an organization called Pen-Path.

"It’s very important because lots of people need education, especially girls," said Pen-Path co-founder Matiulla Wesa.

Pen-Path teachers provide free lessons in two four-hour sessions every day.

"We try our best to educate the students," translator Mohammad Dawood said. "The situation of the country will change only if the future generation of the country is educated."

The international community is demanding the Taliban reopen schools for all girls, but until then, the battle to change the world will be fought in mostly hidden classrooms.

"They are the same Taliban of 20 years ago, but we can't be the women of 20 years ago," Nazhand said. "We have to continue our struggle with the pen and our voices."