Taliban 'to allow girls' schooling'


An Afghan minister said the Taliban has abandoned its opposition to the schooling of girls

The Taliban in Afghanistan has abandoned its opposition to the schooling of girls, according to the country’s education minister.

Farooq Wardak suggested that ongoing negotiations with the Taliban would not compromise achievements in expanding the number of children at school in Afghanistan since the overthrow of the radical Islamist movement.

Under the hardline Taliban regime from 1996 to 2001 women were forced to wear the burka, a garment covering the whole body and head, and banned from working or getting an education.

Mr Wardak, who visited Britain this week for the Education World Forum, claimed there had been major shifts in views about schooling in Afghanistan since 2001.

He told the Times Educational Supplement: “It is attitudinal change, it is behavioural change, it is cultural change. What I am hearing at the very upper policy level of the Taliban is that they are no more opposing education and also girls’ education.”

He added: “I hope, Inshallah (God willing), soon there will be a peaceful negotiation, a meaningful negotiation with our own opposition and that will not compromise at all the basic human rights and basic principles which have been guiding us to provide quality and balanced education to our people.”

Afghan officials are engaged in secret behind-the-scenes peace talks with Taliban leaders in an attempt to end the bloody insurgency that has wracked the troubled country for more than nine years.

Mr Wardak’s words suggest that the negotiations have gone beyond issues like the release of prisoners to touch on areas of government policy.

The education minister admitted that historically opposition to schooling extended beyond the Taliban to the “deepest pockets” of Afghan society.

“During the Taliban era the percentage of girls of the one million students that we had was zero. The percentage of female teachers was zero. Today 38% of our students and 30% of our teachers are female.”

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