KABUL: Afghan teenage girls were sent back home when they arrived in schools after months on Wednesday, as Taliban authorities reversed their earlier decision to allow all girl students to return to classrooms.
Schools had been set to open again after restrictions were brought in when the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in August.
The Ministry of Education said on Monday that all boys and girls would be welcomed back, but it made a last-minute decision, requesting girl students above the age of 13 to wait until further notice.
Ministry spokesperson, Aziz Ahmad Rayan, told reporters on Wednesday that a plan for secondary and high schools for girls, developed in accordance with Islamic law, would be revealed at a later date.
“All secondary and high schools for girls should be informed that their studies are suspended until the next notice,” he said. “Girls’ schools will be officially informed when a comprehensive proposal regarding girls’ education is developed based on Shariah (Islamic law) and the Afghan tradition and the instructions of the Islamic Emirate’s leadership are issued.”
Many of the girls returning excitedly to schools were reduced to tears as teachers asked them to go home.
“When we went to school this morning, the head teacher told us at the school gate that only younger girls were allowed and that we should go back home,” Nasima, a 17-year-old student at the Tajwar Sultana high school in Kabul, told Arab News.
Schools had been ready to receive them, but their plans have now had to be put on hold.
“We are waiting for orders from the provincial education officials,” Alia Salaar, a school principal in Herat, said. “We are ready to start the studies in all grades.”
In a statement shared with reporters, Suhail Shaheen, Taliban government spokesperson and permanent representative-designate to the UN, said the postponement was related to school uniforms and should be resolved soon.
“There is no issue of banning girls from schools,” he added. “It is only a technical issue of deciding on form of school uniform for girls. This is the cause of postponement.”
There had been fears that the Taliban would put an end to women’s education once they regained control of the country, after they barred girls from schools during their first stint in power from 1996 to 2001.
The international community has made the education of girls one of its key demands for any future recognition of the Taliban administration.
Hamid Karzai, who served as Afghanistan’s president from 2001 to 2014 and remained in the country after the Taliban takeover in August, tweeted that he was in “deep sorrow and concern over the closure of girls’ schools.”
Karzai took office after the previous Taliban administration was ousted by a US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. It was under his rule that women’s education was restored in the country.
“The former president asks the caretaker government of the Islamic Emirate to allow girls’ education for a developed and prosperous Afghanistan,” he said. “Don’t let plans of others who want an Afghanistan deprived of education to be implemented.”