Poverty, restrictions on girls shutter 400 Afghan private schools

By Sulaiman

First-grade pupils study in a class at Star-e-Noor Jahan private school in Kabul on August 14. [Sulaiman/Salaam Times]

First-grade pupils study in a class at Star-e-Noor Jahan private school in Kabul on August 14. [Sulaiman/Salaam Times]

KABUL -- Poverty, unemployment and a ban preventing girls from attending secondary school are among the factors that have led to the closure of more than 400 private schools across Afghanistan over the past year, according to educators.

"Unfortunately, most private schools are on the verge of collapse," said Zabihullah Forqani, a member of Afghanistan's private school association. "The underlying reasons are poverty, unemployment and the ban on girls' education beyond sixth grade."

"This situation has led to the closure of more than 400 private schools throughout Afghanistan" including 150 in Kabul and 250 in various provinces, he said.

About 3,600 private schools, including 1,200 in Kabul, were previously operating across Afghanistan.

Many Afghans have lost their jobs and businesses amid the economic downturn, making it difficult to pay for their children's school fees -- the sole source of income for private schools, Forqani said.

"Poverty and unemployment have caused not only a decrease in the number of student enrolments but also a financial crisis for private schools," he said.

"Recent developments have adversely impacted various parts of Afghans' lives, with the education sector being hit the most," said Jan Aqa Hikmat, principal of Noor Jahan Private High School in Kabul.

"There were 650 male and female students in 1st to 12th grade in our school in past years," he said. "But now there are only 215 students in our school."

Hopes and dreams on hold

If restrictions on girls' education continue, more private schools will close, said Forqani.

"Almost 30 to 40% of the students are girls in private schools throughout Afghanistan," he said. "Prohibiting girls from continuing their education will force many private schools to close, and if such a situation persists, more schools will be left with no choice but to close."

Such developments accelerate the destruction of the education sector, he said.

"Recent developments have affected various sectors of Afghan life, and unfortunately, the education sector has suffered more than any other sector," Bahara Mohammadi, owner and head of Star-e-Noor Jahan Private High School in Kabul, told Salaam Times.

"Most students cannot continue their education because of poverty," said Mohammadi. "Teachers also have lost their jobs, and private educational institutions are on the verge of a complete collapse."

Of the 480 students studying at Mohammadi's school, only 240 remain. The others were forced to drop out by poverty or the nationwide ban on girls.

Of the 21 teachers, 11 have lost their jobs since last August.

"School enrolment was beyond expectation until last year, and students attended their classes with great interest," Mohammadi said. "Moreover, students were very hopeful about their future, setting their sights on becoming doctors, engineers, pilots and teachers."

"However, their dreams seem to have disappeared today. They no longer have a smile on their face or any hope for a bright future."

"Half of my classmates, including our classmate who held the first rank and was very intelligent, were forced to drop out," said Mehdi, 12, a fourth-grader at Star-e-Noor Jahan.

"They became very poor and were unable to pay school fees. Moreover, they could not afford to buy books and stationery."

"I feel so sorry for my friends and classmates, and it is a great loss that they are no longer part of our class," Mehdi said.

The shutdowns have also been difficult for teachers.

"I was earning enough from teaching at a private school to support my five-member family," said Asifa Abedi, a teacher at a private school in Kabul city. She withheld the name of her school for security reasons.

"Student enrolment has dropped because of poverty and the economic crisis, and my salary has been reduced by 50%."

"If the situation continues like this, all schools will be closed and thousands of teachers will lose their jobs. Furthermore, in such a situation, unemployment and poverty will become widespread in society," Abedi said.

Lost achievements

For many educators, the greatest fear is having to give up two decades' worth of work.

"The establishment of private schools and universities was considered a major achievement in the education sector during the past two decades," said Sharifa Fahimi, a lecturer at a private university in Kabul.

Fahimi withheld the name of her university for security reasons.

"Thousands of educational institutions opened across Afghanistan. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of students graduated and the same number entered the labour market."

"If private education ceases its operations, not only will the achievements of the last 20 years be lost, but thousands will lose their jobs, and poverty and unemployment will become an evident predicament in the country," she said.

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And I am surprised that Afghanistan is celebrating its 103rd independence anniversary today. I don't know how silly these people are. Our country is administered by Punjab, while you are speaking of freedom. They have closed girls' schools to keep future generations illiterate, and our country is dark. At the same time, the Taliban congratulated the people on the 103rd anniversary of regaining independence and said that today is 19 of August, the historic day when the people of Afghanistan fought against the invaders in very difficult conditions. Jihad and independence struggle defeated British colonialism three times, but I wonder whom we defeated and how? Do they mean freedom as our children go to sleep with empty stomachs? Can our people not get an education? Don't they have health services? The banking system is paralyzed? Punjabis administer the telecommunication system (Pakistanis)?...well, the Taliban officials may say who have we defeated and who has lost? The Taliban's statement says ahead that the Afghans celebrate the country's independence at a time as unique security is tightened in the country; however, I don't feel secure at all because neither I can indeed say anything nor can I ask for my right, nor I can criticize for making reforms… then where did security come from? Security will be at a time as I feel relaxed mentally and physically not to be a thoughtfully enslaved person.


May God have mercy on Afghans. May God never give the power of any country to the hands of arrogant and ignorant people. The Taliban are pushing Pakistan's agenda. All this is going on according to Pakistan's plan, and Pakistan never wants Afghans to advance in any field. Today, people are aware of the reality and origin of Pakistan. They know that this hypocritic country is the biggest enemy of Afghanistan, and the reason for their knowledge in this area is all because of the blessings of education and knowledge. Therefore, Pakistan is trying to weaken Afghanistan first of all in the field of education and keep it ignorant.


Unfortunately, the entire educational system of Afghanistan is falling. Although the decline of private schools and the closure of school doors to girls is a serious problem, in the meantime, if you look at the boy’s public schools, the situation is very dire. Taliban have banned the majority of female teachers from teaching. Many male teachers have also been replaced by the Taliban and their supporters, who are neither educated nor experienced. They have excluded teaching of many modern subjects because they think they are against religion and for they were developed and printed by the republic government. From the first day on, the Taliban have been in a direct and undeclared war with two sectors of Afghanistan. First women and second education. The Taliban are afraid of a society that is becoming literate. The Taliban know that the more literate the society becomes, the more people would hate the Taliban and their ignorant ideology. Therefore Taliban are trying their best to prevent the progress of education in Afghanistan and under any circumstances, they want to prevent the people from becoming literate and educated.


This is just a small segment of a bigger tragedy. Just assess that at least 50 people have been directly working or have been engaged in the sector one way or another. This means that 20 thousand Afghans, each of whom led a family, have lost their jobs and source of income. And this is only the beginning of this ominous chapter. Yet, this is not clear what is going to happen in the upcoming years. I’m pretty sure that with time and as long as the ignorance and dark period of the Taliban lasts, this figure would become much higher than today. It is also most probable that all private schools would be closed. There is even a possibility that with the deterioration of the economic situation, people would force their children to work instead of going to school, and even the number of students at public schools would decrease. This is the benefit of the Taliban’s Jihad to the people of Afghanistan. By following the order of our bloodthirsty enemy, Pakistan, the Taliban aim to eradicate the foundation of education and science in the country so that Afghanistan would always remain in need of Pakistan. Curse on Pakistan and its international supporters.


This is sad news. Not only this, hundreds and thousands of other things were done that destroyed the achievements of Afghans made in the past twenty years, but who committed this crime? Taliban, the previous government, and the western allies are all complicit in this crime. What agreement was made between the US and the Taliban in Doha, which was kept secret from the public? That was the beginning of such a situation. After the Doha agreement, the bases of the system in Afghanistan became weak, and in 18 months, the achievements of the past 20 years were destroyed one by one, and this process is still going on. The remnants of the former Northern Alliance under the leadership of Abdullah Abdullah, who was inside the government, were complicit in these crimes because they prevented the peace talks and ultimately led to the collapse of the system, and everything was messed up.


This issue may not be limited to girls' schools, and it is not. The same is the situation for men in public schools and universities. Pupils and students are decreasing day by day. Everyone is thinking about earning a living. In the previous system, there was an educational competition between the youth. Everyone tried to get an education, have a good job, and live a life, but the hopes of many young people have died due to poverty. So, if this current situation continues, I am sure many government schools and universities will also be closed, along with private schools and universities.