KABUL -- Afghanistan's private universities are struggling to stay afloat as administrators and professors lose their jobs and students are forced to abandon their education.
Since the fall of the Afghan government in mid-August, the country has plunged into financial chaos, with inflation and unemployment surging.
Private universities and their students have not been immune to the insecurity.
Sharifa, 25, a Kabul resident, was a medical student at Afghan Swiss Medical Institute of Higher Education until five months ago.
"My biggest aspiration was to become a doctor and serve my fellow women in remote areas of Afghanistan so that I could prevent the unnecessary demise of mothers and children," she said.
"However, my hope has turned into hopelessness because with the change in the government, the only breadwinner of my household lost his job and I could not afford to pay the university tuition."
"Therefore, I was forced to drop out," Sharifa said.
Sharifa said she started studying at the institute alongside 59 other female classmates.
Since the fall of the previous government, she and 44 others have dropped out after family members lost their jobs.
"We could not pay the tuition and other expenses of the university," Sharifa said.
Ahmad Milad, a 29-year-old resident of Kabul who formerly worked with an international organisation, said that he previously was able to support his family and pay for his education.
"However, like thousands of other youths, I lost my job ... I could not pay for my education," said Milad, who had completed three semesters of his master's programme.
"If the sudden change had not happened in our country, I would not have lost my job. I would, instead, have become a master's degree holder and a young professional serving my beloved country."
"However ... many other youths and I have lost our jobs and cannot afford to continue our education due to poverty and economic hardships," Milad said.
Officials across many of Afghanistan's roughly 120 private universities have reported a significant drop in students after the fall of the previous government, with many institutions nearing collapse.
"In the past, the majority of the students ... studying at the private universities, were either employed themselves, or a member of their family was working," said Javid Sangdel, the president of Dunya University of Afghanistan.
"But now, most of them have lost their jobs after recent developments," he said.
"Despite the fact that universities reduced their tuition fees between 40 and 60%, students are still unable to pay because of severe economic problems and have been forced to discontinue their education," he added.
"Millions of dollars have been invested in the private education sector in the past 20 years. Equally a great number of families had one or two members working in the sector."
"If economic challenges continue to worsen and people are not able to afford studying in private universities, the sector will collapse and many more people will become unemployed and the society will sink further into poverty," Sangdel said.
"Education has been the greatest achievement of Afghanistan over the past two decades," Fahim Chakari, the executive director of Karwan University, told Salaam Times.
"Millions of Afghans have been able to attend schools and universities. Literacy has significantly increased. Hundreds of youths were able to obtain their bachelor's, master's and Ph.D.s, and our country had an unprecedented number of educated and professional workers."
"However, Afghan youth are currently forced to drop out and flee the country because of economic challenges and unemployment," Chakari said, adding that the country's education sector has collapsed as a result.
"Currently there are no proper job opportunities for educated youth," Saber Ghiasi, a lecturer at a private university in Kabul, told Salaam Times.
"Youths have no employment security at all. Poverty and unemployment have forced many educated youth including master's degree holders, Ph.D.s, university lecturers and journalists to seek menial labour [become street vendors]."
"There were as many as 30 students attending my class until recent months, but that number has now shrunk to only 10," Ghaisy said.
"The unclear political and economic future of the country has negatively impacted the motivation of the youth," he said.