Education

Herat witnesses record female participation in Kankor exam

By Omar

The presence of women at the annual Kankor university entrance exam in Herat has reached new levels, highlighting the determination of Afghan women seeking higher education. More than half of this year's participants were women, according to local officials. [Omar]

HERAT -- The number of women at the annual Kankor university entrance exam in Herat has reached new levels, highlighting the determination of Afghan women seeking higher education.

More than 13,000 participants took the Kankor exam this year August 6-8 at Herat University in Herat city.

Among the 13,280 participants, 7,779 were women, said Herat University Chancellor Abdullah Fayez.

"Girls' participation stood at 51% in the 2018 Kankor exam, their participation rose to 52% in 2019, and this year it jumped to 59%," he said.

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Female participants wait in line before taking the college entrance exam, known as Kankor in Afghanistan, August 7 at Herat University. [Omar]

During the first round, more than 10,000 women took the test in 17 provinces, and in the second round, which covers eight provinces including Herat, more than 16,700 took part, according to Abdul Qadir Khamush, the acting administrator of the exam board at the Ministry of Higher Education.

"An increased number of women have participated in this year's Kankor exam throughout Afghanistan -- more than that in previous years," he said. "There will be a higher participation of girls in the Kankor exam in the near future in the remaining nine provinces."

Past experience and results show that women have scored higher than men have on the Kankor exam, while they also have won the highest number of slots in higher educational institutions, he added.

Realising their rights

Women who took the Kankor exam in Herat Province say they did so to educate themselves in order to play an active role in Afghanistan's future.

Afghan women lost their chance at education and activities outside the home for a few decades because of war and social problems, but now things have changed as women play a role in the country's development alongside men, said Rahima Saeedi, who took the examination in Herat.

"Women and girls of Afghanistan have grown, and they have realised their rights," she added. "They want to play their part in the civil service, university education and activities outside the home."

Continuing education is women's definite right, and no one -- including the Taliban -- can snatch this right from them, said Saeedi.

"The Taliban must accept women and girls with their current situation and the opportunities they have, and they can never impose their demands on women," she added.

"If the Taliban enter the peace process, they must accept the Afghan government as a progressive government and they have to refrain from putting obstacles in Afghanistan's path to growth, including education and activities outside the home," she said. "They have to accept women's rights and their presence in the government."

"As a young person, I plan to continue my education and serve in the government in the future," said Rayhana Mahboobi, another test taker from Herat.

"I want to obtain a master's degree and then work in the government to serve my country," she added. "The Taliban cannot restrict women's activities."

Lasting peace needs to be ensured should the Taliban join the government so that women and girls can receive an education and play a key role in their country's future, added Mahboobi.

A key role in Afghanistan's development

Women have an active role in the civil service in Herat Province as they lead a number of key government institutions, said Munesa Hasanzada, the deputy governor of the province.

"Women and girls have been educated and empowered during the past two decades, and they have capabilities similar to those of men striving for the prosperity of their country," she said. "Opportunities and achievements that you see in Afghanistan today could have never been possible without women's participation."

"Women have grown in Afghanistan to an extent that if someone or a group intends to block their activities, it will face resistance," she said. "Women in Afghanistan are not like those 20 years ago, and they're able to defend their rights."

Women constitute half of Afghanistan's population and they are very interested in education and progress; therefore, their growth should not be blocked, said Abdullah Mayar, a lecturer at Herat University.

The large presence of women taking the Kankor exam "sends a message that women should participate in all walks of life", he added. "Women should be given an active role in the peace process so that they can defend their rights during peace talks with the Taliban."

No one can overlook girls and women's considerable presence in Afghan society, he said.

"Educated girls and women have a key role to play in Afghanistan's reconstruction and development, and the more educated women we have, the more they can contribute to various sectors in the country," added Mayar.

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We are moving ahead and will not return back. Now the Afghan society has become very large. People of this country have realized that all the problems and misfortunes of Afghanistan were in their illiteracy. If we want a free, independent, self-sufficient and secure Afghanistan, all the citizens of the country, both men and women, should study. Every Afghan boy or girl, who becomes literate and studies, hits with their hard fist on the mouths of the enemies of this country. As the level of literacy rises in the Afghan society, peace and security will come in this country and war and disorders will be eradicated. We should be happy that the number of female participants in the university entrance exam of Herat province has increased. Women’s education is considered very much important. If a woman is literate, she will be able to bring up her children properly and will not allow her children to take up arms and use them against the government and others. All our problems were from illiteracy. If all the people of our country were literate, now we would not have war in our country. Death to the enemies of knowledge and education. Long live to knowledge and literacy.

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It is good news for development of the country as females' share in the university entrance exam will increase. The government should arrange transportation facilities for the female students because people's economy is weak. Boys can use bicycle, motorcycle, bus, rikshaw or go by foot to reach the university; however, girls cannot use the aforementioned transportation. They are compelled to rent private cars for themselves and it is expensive to rent one's own car. If the government cannot rent cars for each student, at least they can give them cash on monthly bases.

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Herat province has a high culture and its people value education and literacy more than other western provinces. In the next few years, all the young women of the country may become educated. The people of this province pay close attention to the education of women and there is no difference between girls and boys before the families. Both have equal rights before the families. Women’s participation in the university entrance exam of this year was really much higher than it was years ago. This shows the interest of the people in the education of women. The people of Herat are very clever. All Afghans should let their daughters go to school and university so that our society becomes literate and our problems are solved.

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In Herat, generally the number of Kankor participants has increased; however, it has notably decreased in other provinces compared to that of Mr. Karzai's era. Especially, the boys' number has decreased a lot. The reason is that people's economic condition has severely damaged and those who graduate from the university are not provided with work opportunities. For this same reason, now people do not give much attention to education. If joblessness and poverty continue, this number will decrease further in the upcoming years and no one will take part in the Kankor exam. We seriously ask the government to provide educated youth with work opportunity so that youth can be encouraged to study and go to universities.

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