Afghan girls sit for exams despite no school for a year

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Afghan high school girls return from school after taking part in their high school graduation exam in Kabul on Wednesday.
Afghan high school girls return from school after taking part in their high school graduation exam in Kabul on Wednesday.
  • Afghan girls have sat for exams despite them being barred from attending schools for more than a year.
  • Education opportunities for women and girls have been stifled since the Taliban took control of the country in August last year.
  • Women have also been pushed out of government jobs or being paid to stay at home.

Afghan education authorities staged secondary-school leaving exams for girls across much of the country Wednesday despite most of them being barred from attending classes for over a year.

The education ministry would provide no details of the exams - or how many pupils were sitting them - and refused to allow the media near schools where they were being held.

"They were very difficult. We had no preparation," one teenager told AFP as she made her way home, asking not to be identified.

She said they were given notice just days ago to prepare.

"This exam is useless because for three years we haven't studied anything. There was the coronavirus, then the arrival of the Taliban, so we couldn't study."

Most secondary schools for girls have been shut across the country since the Taliban returned to power in August last year, with the hardline Islamists offering a series of excuses for the closure.

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Officials have said there weren't enough teachers or funds, that they would reopen once an Islamic curriculum had been prepared, or that a national policy on modest school attire first had to be formulated.

The ministry announced the reopening of schools in March last year, but they were shut hours later on the order of supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada, who Taliban sources have said is opposed to girls' education.

Women have increasingly been squeezed out of public life since the Taliban's return despite the hardline Islamists promising a softer version of the harsh rule that characterised their first stint in power that ended in 2001.

Women have been pushed out of government jobs - or are being paid a pittance to stay at home - and are also barred from travelling without a male relative, and must cover up with a burqa or hijab when out of the home.

Last month they were also prohibited from going to parks, funfairs, gyms and public baths.

The Taliban have so far allowed young women to attend university, with classes segregated by sex.

There are fears, however, that without being able to pass the school leaving exam, there will be very few women able to apply to university.

Students who pass the leaving exam are eligible to sit the "Kankor", a highly competitive test that decides coveted university places.

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