Published: 20th September 2021
UNESCO, UNICEF say closed Afghan girls' schools violates fundamental right to education
Both UNESCO and UNICEF said that Afghanistan has made significant gains in education, especially in girls' education, and they should be preserved
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) said that closing Afghan girls' schools violates the fundamental right to education.
UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said in a statement that if the girls' schools continue to remain closed, it would constitute a significant violation of the fundamental right to education for girls and women.
"UNESCO warns about the irreversible consequences if girls are not allowed to return to school at all levels of education swiftly. In particular, the delayed return of girls to secondary school may risk them being left behind in education and ultimately, in life. It increases the risk of dropping out from education altogether and exposes them to negative coping mechanisms such as child marriage. It may further widen the learning disparities between boys and girls, and ultimately hinder girls' access to higher education and life opportunities," Azoulay said.
Both UNESCO and UNICEF said that Afghanistan has made significant gains in education, especially in girls' education, and they should be preserved.
Azoulay said educated boys and girls will shape the future of Afghanistan and they should equally benefit from the rights to an education.
"The future of Afghanistan depends on educated girls and boys. We, therefore, call upon all relevant actors in Afghanistan to ensure that all children have unhindered access to education in the framework of the announced gradual reopening of schools. The right to education for all learners, especially girls, must be upheld at this critical time," she said.
In the meantime, UNICEF has also voiced its concerns over the unclear fate of Afghan girls and their education. While welcoming the gradual reopening of schools, UNICEF chief Henrietta Fore said in a statement that "we are deeply worried that many girls may not be allowed back at this time."
Fore said the girls must not be left behind and she called on relevant actors to address the problem. "Girls cannot, and must not, be left behind," Fore said.
The statement comes as boys' secondary schools reopened on Saturday, but the fate of girls' schools remains unclear. The Taliban education ministry of the caretaker cabinet on Friday announced that male students and teachers should appear in schools but did not mention anything about girls and female teachers.
According to UNESCO, Afghanistan has made important gains in the education sector in the past two decades. Since 2001, the female literacy rate has almost doubled from 17 per cent to 30 per cent, and the number of girls in primary school has increased from almost zero in 2001 to 2.5 million in 2018.
The number of girls in higher education institutions has increased from 5,000 in 2001 to around 90,000 in 2018.