Afghanistan's girls learn at covert digital school despite Taliban shutdown

Afghanistan's girls learn at covert digital school despite Taliban shutdown
Amid concerns remain about the future of education for women and girls in Afghanistan, 100 girl pupils have enrolled in a covert digital school to continue their studies.
2 min read
22 October, 2021
The digital school has 100 places [Sayed Khodaiberdi Sadat/Anadolu Agency/Getty-file photo]

Afghan girls over the age of 12 are attending a clandestine virtual school after the country's new Taliban rulers forbade them from returning to education after seizing power in August.

NGO Learn Afghanistan created the scheme in October, and it has 100 enrolled pupils. The school focuses particularly on science, technology, engineering and maths – commonly known collectively as STEM – The Times reported on Thursday.

Specifics have not been revealed for the safety of pupils and workers, though the school holds lessons thrice weekly around various IT skills, including programming, graphic design and website creation.

"We are all very worried, especially in terms of women's access to education," 25-year-old Nazifa Rahmati, a teacher on the scheme, explained.

"That’s why this programme is important. I'm a computer science graduate and I was unable to find a course like this so I'm glad to be able to offer this to the next generation of girls and serve my community."


In addition, Learn Afghanistan's scheme shows girls means of finding materials for themselves to help them further their own development.

Rahmati said that when women receive an education, they pass this on to their children, expressing that women are key to fulfilling the needs of their local areas.

Boys have been permitted to go back to class by the Taliban, while girls have been denied this opportunity, having to stay in the house.

While certain regions unilaterally decided to let older female students return to lessons, the central Taliban government has not yet budged.

Who's who of the Taliban
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Despite this, Taliban interior ministry spokesperson Saeed Khosty explained to Al Jazeera on Sunday that women and girls, whose learning and rights his group has historically restricted, will resume education "[i]n a very short time".

"It's an awful situation we are facing," a pupil at Learn Afghanistan's online school explained, according to The Times.

The student, who hopes to become an engineer, said it upset her that boy students were able to remain in education while she was not.

Learn Afghanistan's 23-year-old founder, Pashtana Durrani, established the organisation three years ago for girls living in rural areas. She explained that women instructors work with the girls, who learn using tablets.

"We are educating 100 girls who will be the future of Afghanistan," Durrani said.