There once were two sisters in a family who were able to go to school during the Taliban era in Afghanistan because their family emigrated to Iran. Their mother supported them in every way so that they could finish their high school educations.
When they moved back to Afghanistan they couldn’t tell anybody about their education because at the time the Taliban was still in power. The Taliban closed the schools for five long years. Boys were allowed to get an Islamic education, but girls were prohibited from any education. The Taliban wanted all females to be illiterate, to tend to the home and never leave the house unless covered and with a male escort.
Finally, after the end of the Taliban rule the older sister married and became a teacher. She encouraged her younger sister who was unmarried to do the same although their father was strictly against this. He was very traditional and he was a religious fundamentalist. Only after long and painful struggles was she finally able to become a teacher. Her first day of teaching was wonderful. The women students were so happy to be permitted to attend school after so many years at home. Most of her students were older than she, yet she was their teacher! She taught them mathematics and grammar. There were no books to use and the Taliban had destroyed the old schools so they made a school under a tent.
Despite many positive changes in Afghanistan’s educational system, there are still not enough professional teachers and university professors. In many regions the Taliban is still a big issue for Afghan children and adults and security prevents parents from sending girls to school.
But for both female and male Afghan youth, ideas about education have changed. Many have hopes of getting scholarships to universities all over the world to improve their knowledge and to discover their talents, and then bring change to Afghanistan.
We should all live in a world without borders. Our limitations are no smaller than that of the universe; the limits of education and discovery are endless. People fear that the Taliban is returning. But these fears must not prevent the development of the country and democracy. I hope that thousands of other girls and women will have the chance to experience the joyful edge of discovery that my older sister and I had when we became teachers after the Taliban was defeated.
Photo by the Advocacy Project.