“150 Girls Poisoned For Attending School” and “Another 160 Girls, Teachers Poisoned At School In Afghanistan” were two recent Care2 headlines.
But now, in what will hopefully prove to be a shift from their restrictive attitude towards female education, the Taliban has approved a British-funded scheme to give English and computer classes to Afghan girls.
The Daily Telegraph reports that Mercy Corps, a charity based in Britain, is running vocational colleges for young Afghan women. The approximately $8 million program includes English and computer classes, and is expanding throughout the Helmand province.
That’s great news, but even more extraordinary is the fact that these lessons are being held with the knowledge and acceptance of the Taliban.
Since the 2001 toppling of the Taliban, which banned education for women and girls, females have returned to schools, and there are now more than a million Afghan girls attending schools throughout the country. But periodic attacks still occur against girls, teachers and their school buildings, sometimes resulting in school closures.
But Mercy Corps could change some of that, with roughly 1,000 girls over the age of 15 already participating in the program, and many more on the waiting list.
Does the Taliban’s acceptance of these programs indicate a softer stance on the education of women?
From The Telegraph:
“I’m not sure it’s a softer stance, I think you would call it a more politically aware stance about their previous shortcomings on education,” said David Haines, Mercy Corps’ Afghanistan director.
“That’s not to say they have become wildly liberal.
“I think they know that education is the will of the people. Every community we work in tells us that education is important to them.”
Being transparent about what the colleges are offering and using well-connected local staff have been the secrets of success so far, he said.
The Telegraph also points out that many families don’t want their daughters taught by men, so the more females learn, the more female teachers will be available.
We will wait to see how these college courses develop, but it is good to know that progress is being made in girls’ education in Afghanistan, however slight. Good luck to Mercy Corps!
Photo Credit: cordelia_persen