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Afghan girls and women over the age of twelve are now entering their second year without access to education. – The answer must be to strengthen primary school provision, says Afghanistan’s country director, Terje Watterdal.

Everything continues as before, is the message from the Afghan government. Girls at secondary and upper secondary level are still excluded from all formal education.

– “This is grossly discriminatory, and must be condemned in the strongest terms,” says the NAC country director, Terje Watterdal. When half the population is denied an education, it has serious consequences for Afghanistan’s future. When the new school year was officially marked by the Taliban government in Kabul today, girls and women were not mentioned.

– “It was a strange experience,” says Watterdal, who was present at the ceremony. However, he points out that several of the ministers were not present at the ceremony, which imply disagreements within the Taliban. Several high-ranking Taliban leaders have openly criticized Mullah Habatullah and the circle around him for stopping girls and women’s right to education.

— We know that there is strong support for education for girls and women both in the population and internally in the Taliban. This was a demonstration of power from the supreme leader and a small group around him in Kandahar, says Watterdal.

– “Our major concern is that the international community will react by further decreasing aid for education,” says Watterdal. “The most important thing now is to be in solidarity with the Afghan people. We cannot leave the Afghan women and girls alone in this fight. Our answer must be to continue to strengthen the primary school, says Watterdal. He emphasizes that this must be done in collaboration with the local population, and not with the national authorities.

Six years of education is not enough

— Six years of education is not enough, but it is better than nothing. We must prevent a new generation of Afghan girls and boys who can neither read nor write, says Watterdal. We must also continue to educate midwives, nurses, and other female health professionals.

The education system is poorly developed in areas that have been the center of the war for the past 20 years, where neither the government nor the international organizations had access. There is a great demand for education in these areas.

– It is important to be able to respond to demands from the people regarding education and work. The demands from people all over the country constitute enormous pressure from the grassroots which sooner or later will lead to lasting change in Afghanistan, says Watterdal. The top leadership of the Taliban must understand that they cannot continue to rule against the will of their own people, and against the majority in their own government.

– It must therefore be a priority for the Norwegian authorities to ensure the best possible provision in primary schools, so that Afghan children get the best possible foundation for the future, he concludes.


Photo: Paul Wennerholm