UNESCO expresses deep concern over exclusion of girls from Afghanistan schools

UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay has expressed deep concern over the announcement made in Afghanistan to gradually reopen secondary schools for boys and their male teachers only, leaving girls and women behind, the fate of girls’ schools remained unclear. General 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, reported Tolo News.

UNESCO calls on those responsible for this announcement to clarify the situation and reopen schools for all Afghan students, boys and girls alike. Both UNESCO and UNICEF said that Afghanistan has made significant gains in education, especially in girls’ education, and they should be preserved. UNESCO has warned 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. According to a report, Afghanistan has made significant gains in education over the past twenty years particularly for girls and women. Since 2001, the female literacy rate has almost doubled from 17 percent to 30 percent; the number of girls in primary school increased from almost zero in 2001 to 2.5 million in 2018. The number of girls in higher education increased from around 5,000 in 2001 to around 90,000 in 2018. The percentage of female teachers increased from 27 percent in 2007 to 36 percent in 2018. Yet these critical gains for the country’s development are at risk if there is a delayed return of girls to school.