It has been over a year and half since girls' secondary education was banned by the Taliban in Afghanistan, and recently, they banned women from studying at universities too - which led the future of many women and girls to darkness.
After the Taliban’s latest announcement, many people initiated online classes for girls and women who were deprived of getting an education in Afghanistan. Hamayoun Behmanes is a former University lecturer who is pursuing his PhD in Computer Science in Saarlandes University of Germany. He is holding online classes of programming software Python through Google Meet and Whatsapp - delivered to over 40 women and girls from different parts of Afghanistan.
He holds his online classes three times per week and each class is one and half hours. “In the current situation, unfortunately, the morale of female students has been severely damaged, and it is still effective for raising the capacity of these students, but it cannot be a long-term solution. Even if it is structured and the field of obtaining an academic certificate in this way becomes favourable for female students, but the current suffocating conditions in Afghanistan continue, this method cannot be a solution. It is not possible to eliminate more than half of the society from all sections of society and we rely on them to study well online,” says Hamayoun.
He also believes the country will not achieve peace without women’s participation in Afghan society.
Khalida*, who was studying at Parwan University when the Taliban made the announcement, is studying online classes focused on Python programming. Before starting these online classes, she was reading some books at home and could not participate in any educational centres.
“Online classes are a good option instead of sitting at home and doing nothing but it’s clear that it is not a long-term solution,” said Khalida.
“It’s not only my future but the future of all women and girls which is unknown, and I am not very optimistic if the situation continues like this” she added.
Sara* is living in Afghanistan and using the online courses. “It's too early to think that the whole educational system, especially classes, will go online. Because there is no sufficient infrastructure to reach everyone, and we can't only think that when a very few people have access to the basic requirements of taking classes online, for instance; laptop, smartphones, and internet, but there are many who don't have access of getting online classes. Especially in Afghanistan or even in many other countries, not every remote and rural area is equipped with a network and internet” says Sara.
“It is very difficult to live here, not only the education system, but women are not allowed to leave their houses: they are not allowed to go to the parks, markets, and restaurants. Suppose if we go out, we should only wear big black clothes and even cover our faces” she added.
Sara witnessed many women stop studying due to lack of online classes, while some had become extremely depressed and dealing with mental health problems.
“I control myself; I am not depressed because this situation makes me more committed towards my dreams and goals. I try harder than in the past, I read books, write, try and keep going, I don't allow them [the Taliban] to celebrate their irrational decisions” added Sara.
Shabana* is also studying online classes in Afghanistan. “Our mental health and morale have been affected after the Taliban announcement on banning Universities and schools. Online classes are a good option to build our capacities, but it cannot be a long-term solution even if we are able to get an educational diploma through online courses.”
“Nowadays we don’t have a proper electricity or internet connection so we can never ever replace schools and universities environments with online classes” she says.
Parasto Hakim, 25 years old, is the Founder and Director of Srak - an online university, community-based schools, literacy, skill-building programs (sketching and sewing). They use Google Meet and hold the classes for 1 and half hours every night from 8 to 9:30 Kabul Time - or more. Her Srak platform provides management, public speaking, computer, English (3 Levels), psychology, research, book reading competitions for 80 students in each class.
“I, Srak's team and the students hate the fact that they have to skip the socialisation and stay home far from everyone and learn at home - but since there is no way these are the least and the last, we can do - because we are able to help, we help those who needs our help. And we see the motivation that regard that is why we want to expand and pave ways so they can learn,” says Parasto. Parasto Hakim, like every other person from Afghanistan, is not optimistic about women’s future if the situation continues and she sees the future of women.
Sharifullah Ranzormal is a high school teacher who has been teaching over 18 years in northern Afghanistan, Balkh province. He says: “online education could not replace the classes because the access to the internet is not wide and accessible to everyone and it can’t cover the rural and urban areas.”
“Students need to get lessons by reading, listening, and feeling in the classes. Also, they can have more concentration when they are in the class but not the online ones” added Sharifullah.
Hoda Khamos, a poet and women’s right activist who initiated the demonstrations by writing her erotic poems, led the demonstrations in Kabul after the Taliban took over. She believes that these online classes can be a small hope for women and girls who are deprived of getting education and basic human rights by the Taliban.
“Even online is not a good solution or replace the atmosphere of the universities and schools but it could help women in a very traditional and conservative society there in Afghanistan” says Hoda.
“It's been over 600 days since the school's doors were closed for the girls in Afghanistan. It's affecting mentally and long-term economic impact on the families and society” she added.
Decades of war and conflict, and fragile regimes in Afghanistan, have affected the education sector. There were not enough resources like books that students can have access to, and the curriculum of education has been changed by change of the regime. It's a big shock for the system. The Taliban banned education of women while people are dealing with economic problems, and no one knows how many and for how long with the low internet connection people in Afghanistan can have access to online education.