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  • » 01/14/2011, 00.00


    Taliban no longer opposed to female education

    Afghan education minister makes the announcement in London. Sources tell AsiaNews that a cultural change is underway in the country. However, low teacher salaries and the distribution of international aid in education are major problems.

    Kabul (AsiaNews) – Afghanistan’s Education Minister Farooq Wardak said that the Taliban no longer oppose schooling girls. Sources tell AsiaNews that things are changing rapidly at the school level, but the lack of resources remains the educational system’s main problem.

    In London for the Education World Forum, Minister Wardak told the UK 's Times Educational Supplement that a  "cultural change" was underway in his country and that the Taliban were "no more opposing girls' education".

    Under the Taliban regime, girls were not allowed to go to school. Even recently, female education provoked violent protests. In November 2008, unknown attackers sprayed acid on the face of 14 female students and teachers in Kandahar to “punish them”, an act that cause protest and raised worldwide concern.

    The Afghan education minister did not say if the issue was discussed during the talks held in the last few months between President Hamid Karzai and Taliban leaders. He did say however, “38% of our students and 30% of our teachers are female”.

    Speaking to AsiaNews under the veil of anonymity, sources said that the way of thinking about female education is changing in the country, as opposition slowly declines.

    “In the big cities like Kabul it is normal for girls to go to school. It is great to see them come out of school, easily recognisable by their black dress and white veil, adding a touch of colour as they leisurely walk in the streets.”

    “In many areas, local mullahs are more likely to oppose girls’ education than the Taliban. However, people are paying less and less attention to them. The problem is the local, tribal way of thinking, which in many places see a woman’s place in the home, working to help the family. For this reason, some schools offer bursaries for female students from needy families, about 200 Euros (one euro-60 Afghanis) to pay for costs and convince families to let them go to school.”

    However, “Education’s main problem,” the source said, “is teachers’ paltry salaries, which range between 70 and 100 dollars a month. A dollar is worth 45 Afghanis, that means salaries range between 3,500 and 4,500 Afghanis, but cost of living averages around 12-15,000 Afghanis per month per family. Bread (500 gr round or long loaves) can cost 10 Afghanis. A two-room flat in a Kabul Soviet-era tenement block can cost US$ 450 dollars. This is why teachers want to get bursaries like their students.”

    In London, Wardak criticised the UK government for not providing more money for schooling in Afghanistan. But a representative said the UK remained committed to improving education in Afghanistan.

    “Last year, the British government financed the salaries of 169,000 teachers through the Afghanistan reconstruction trust fund.” In addition, it has “helped Afghan communities to build schools in every province of the country," she said.

    Speaking to AsiaNews, another source could neither deny nor confirm the information. However, it did say that many teachers must work a second job to make ends meet.

    “In any event, I know for certain that many schools have not received subsidies for salaries, except from private sources. I wonder why funds are not given to all schools, in proportion to their size.”

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    See also

    15/01/2009 AFGHANISTAN
    Afghan girls risk lives to go to school
    The girls who had acid thrown into their faces in November in Kandahar have gone back to school. The difficult situation for women in Afghanistan, where being raped is a grave dishonor. The majority of beggars today are women.

    13/11/2008 AFGHANISTAN
    Acid thrown in faces of five young women in Kandahar, "guilty" of going to school
    Responsibility for the crime is attributed to the Taliban, who have an extensive presence in the area. During their government, they imposed an absolute ban on any form of education for females.

    12/02/2008 AFGHANISTAN
    Despite Taliban attacks, more and more children and teenagers going to school
    Islamists rebels want to undermine education. In the last ten months they have murdered 147 teachers and students and destroyed 98 schools. Unfortunately many areas still lack proper schools and pupils end up in madrassas that preach fundamentalism and hatred.

    03/03/2008 AFGHANISTAN
    The challenge of educating against Taliban terrorism
    Schools re-open for 6.5 million children. In the absence of classrooms, materials and teachers, the Taliban burn schools and kill teachers in their attempt to prevent a better future.

    19/01/2009 PAKISTAN
    Swat Valley: Taliban blow up five schools, threaten school girls
    Carnage averted because of winter break. The government reiterates its commitment to re-opening schools in March, but the safety of tens of thousands of school girls remains in jeopardy. Another Pakistani fundamentalist group calls on Taliban to reconsider their decision and guarantee instead an education to girls as well.

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