Taliban may allow girls in schools: official

The Taliban may drop its opposition to letting girls in Afghanistan attend school, the Afghan education minister says.
The Taliban is considering relaxing its opposition to letting girls in Afghanistan go to school, Afghan education minister Farooq Wardak told a British publication. ((Rafiq Maqbool/Associated Press) )

The Taliban may drop its opposition to letting girls in Afghanistan attend school, the Afghan education minister says.

Discussions with Taliban have led to an agreement that girls are entitled to go to school, Farooq Wardak told England's Times Education Supplement in an interview.

Wardak said there have been attitudinal, behavioural and cultural changes related to girls' education since the ruling Taliban were toppled in 2001.

"What I am hearing at the very upper policy level of the Taliban is that they are no more opposing education and also girls' education," Wardak was quoted as saying.

Girls were barred from attending public school after the Taliban seized power in 1996. While they ruled, "zero per cent" of Afghanistan's one million students were female, Wardak said.

Since the ouster of the Taliban, girls have been allowed back into schools, but Taliban supporters have tried to stop them.

Challenges ahead

Despite Taliban opposition, the makeup of the school system is changing.

"Today 38 per cent of our students and 30 per cent of our teachers … are female," Wardak said.

But incorporating girls and women back into the education system in greater numbers won't happen without great effort.

There are no female students in 200 of the more than 400 Afghan districts and urban centres, and no qualified female teachers in 245 districts.

Funding is an issue, and Wardak praised countries such as Canada, Norway, Denmark and the U.S. for their help improving schools.

But he called on the British government to increase its contribution, the supplement reported.

"We want them to invest in education because we believe that is the fundamental cornerstone and an important prerequisite for bringing a sustainable peace and a sustainable development and prosperity," he was quoted as saying.