Male and female students seperated by curtains as classes resume in Afghanistan universities

Students across Afghanistan have started returning to university, and in some cases females have been separated from their male peers by curtains or boards down the middle of the classroom.

Teachers and students at universities in Afghanistan’s largest cities – Kabul, Kandahar and Herat – told Reuters that female students were being segregated in class, taught separately or restricted to certain parts of the campus. What happens in universities and schools across the country is being closely watched by foreign powers, who want the Islamist militant movement to respect the rights of women in return for vital aid and diplomatic engagement. When it last ruled from 1996-2001, the group banned girls from school and women from university and work.

Despite assurances in recent weeks that women’s rights would be honoured in accordance with Islamic law, it is unclear what that will mean in practice.

“Putting up curtains is not acceptable,” Anjila, a 21-year-old student at Kabul University who returned to find her classroom partitioned, told Reuters by telephone. “I really felt terrible when I entered the class … We are gradually going back to 20 years ago.”

A document outlining guidelines for resuming class circulated by an association of private universities in Afghanistan listed measures such as the mandatory wearing of hijabs and separate entrances for female students.

It also reported that female teachers should be hired to teach female students, and that females should be taught separately or, in smaller classes, segregated by a curtain. Sher Azam, a 37-year-old teacher at a private university in Kabul, said his institute had given teachers the option of holding separate classes for men and women, or partitioning classrooms with curtains and boards (OAN).


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