- Taliban officials reneged on their decisions to open secondary schools for girls.
- Girls who were ready to start their schooling after waiting more than half a year were beyond disappointed and left feeling helpless for their futures.
- The Taliban leadership has been split on the decision of women’s education.
When the Taliban took over Afghanistan, women’s education was thrown under the bus. Besides a limited primary school education, girls were commanded to stay home. Even a building dedicated to the Women’s Affair Ministry was converted to the Ministry for Preaching and Guidance and the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.
As the first day of the new academic school year was set to begin, hopeful girls across Afghanistan began packing their bags and heading to their secondary school for the first time since August last year.
At the girls’ Secondary School of Sayed ul Shahada, about 200 girls decided to try their luck and make their commutes to school. Not only were they worried that their school might remain closed, but fresh in their heads was still the suicide attack in which more than 90 of their classmates and school staff were killed.
Sakina, who still remembers the attack told reporters “The first suicide bombing happened very close to me. There were lots of dead people in front of me… I didn’t think I would survive.” She went on to say, emotionally, “Our revenge on the people who did this, will be continuing our education. We want to succeed in our lives, so we can fulfill the dreams of our martyrs.”
As Sakina and her classmates entered their schoolrooms, their head teacher shared a sorrowful message with the students. The local Taliban education official had sent a WhatsApp message saying that girl’s secondary schools will be closed until further notice.
As expected, the girls were horrified. Fatima, a student at the school, asked “We just want to be able to learn and serve our people. What kind of country is this? What is our sin?”
A spokesman for the Taliban ministry, Aziz-ur-Rahman Rayan, said that the group’s central leadership had put out orders for the schools to remain closed until “a comprehensive plan has been prepared according to Sharia and Afghan culture”.
Taliban’s Permanent Ambassador-Designate to the United Nations, Suhail Shaheen, told reporters, “There is no issue of banning girls from schools. It is only a technical issue of deciding on [the] form of school uniform for girls. We hope the uniform issue is resolved and finalized as soon as possible.”
There have been conflicting views within the Taliban regarding women’s education. Although, at first, they had given the go ahead to open up girls’ schools, in order to keep their more conservative members happy, the Taliban reneged on their decision to open the secondary schools.
One Taliban fighter in the more conservative southern area said that if a girl really wanted to learn then, “their brothers can go to school and then teach them at home.”
Although many conservative Afghans are against women’s education, ordinary Afghan families appear to be in favor of girls’ education. The World Bank conducted a recent study which showed a rise in female primary school attendance since the Taliban takeover.
‘Don’t forget them’: millions of Afghans face hunger, economic crisis
International aid workers share stories of children and families struggling to make ends meet
“Winter is coming.”
That’s how Ammar Ammar, spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Afghanistan, describes the situation in Afghanistan. The current hunger crisis, the result of a collapsing economy and drought, will only get worse if the country doesn’t get help, he says, especially in the colder months when people also have to stay warm.
“It’s not Game of Thrones here, it’s reality.”
Almost a year after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the world has become silent about the plight of the country and its people, who are facing one of their worst humanitarian and economic crisis in decades.
After the fall of Kabul, the international community declined to recognize the Taliban regime. Countries paused foreign aid and imposed sanctions. The United States also froze billions in Afghan state assets.
A country that had become reliant on external aid was left on its own. In the process, millions of Afghans were abandoned, too.
On a recent lunch break in Kabul, Ammar saw two girls, one about six years old and the other about three. One of them was lying down on the sidewalk, while the other was squatting next to a big nylon bag. They’d been collecting pieces of scrap metal on the streets to make ends meet.
“You could see that they were exhausted,” Ammar said. “You are going for your break and at the same time you can see two kids on the street, where they have no break at this age. It strikes you.”
And there are thousands of children like them.
“We are doing a massive job,” Ammar says. “But the sad reality is we can’t help everyone at the end of the day.”
A woman in Qala-e-Naw, the capital of the Badghis province recently told the UN-run World Food Programme (WFP) in Kabul how she made ends meet after her husband died five years prior.
“In the past, she said, she had a fair life, just getting by cleaning and washing for other people. After the economy collapsed, families have no money anymore to pay her and her work dried up,” said WFP spokesperson Philippe Kropf in an email. As a result, she borrows money to buy food, going further into debt.
“She told me she has not been able to buy cooking oil for weeks. She eats bread with tea and sometimes rice,” he said.
A young man told Kropf that “his family went to sleep many evenings without anything to eat in the past months.”
“They borrowed food with neighbours, but increasingly the neighbours have nothing to share,” he added, noting the young man had only completed second grade and was trying to find labour jobs to make ends meet. “But these jobs are getting rarer and rarer because of the collapse of the economy, too.”
The man participated in a training program to gain skills such as tailoring or mobile phone repair to earn a livelihood. The program trains 200 men and women over six months, during which participants receive food assistance for their families.
“After the training, (the young man) hopes to either open his own little shop, sewing clothing for men and children or to find work in a tailor shop and work for a salary,” Kropf said.
Prospects of famine remain
With the country reeling from recent droughts, and facing high inflation, a difficult situation is becoming even worse.
“For the first time, urban residents are suffering from food insecurity at similar rates to rural communities, marking the shifting face of hunger in the country,” Kropf said, noting some people are seeking help from WFP for the first time in their lives.
“The scale of the crisis in Afghanistan is immense, and needs continue to outpace available funding,” he added. The WFP needs nearly US $1 billion by the end of 2022 to help 18 million people – nearly half the population of Afghanistan.
Of that, the group urgently needs US $172 million to secure 150,000 metric tonnes of food to support 2.2 million people in remote parts of Afghanistan, which can get cut off by ice and snow in winter.
“We need these even more urgently because of the long lead-times for food commodities that we need to buy internationally,” Kropf said, including vegetable oil and specialized nutritious foods. “We need to get them into (the) country and then drive them into the mountains.”
The lack of funds in state bank accounts means civil servants aren’t being paid regularly, companies are shutting down and ordinary civilians face restricted access to their own savings.
Prospects of famine remain, said Ammar, noting that the main indicator is farming, which most people depend on to make ends meet. Farmers say climate change is resulting in less food production, resulting in extended periods when people don’t have adequate access to food.
Need for international aid
At the end of June, a 5.9 magnitude earthquake hit southeast Afghanistan, killing over 1,000 people and causing damage the International Rescue Committee described as “catastrophic.”
“This earthquake is a catastrophe for the people affected, but the response to the wider crisis in Afghanistan remains a catastrophe of choice for the international community,” said David Miliband, the group’s CEO and president in a release at the time.
“While humanitarian aid has averted famine for now, policies of economic isolation, the halting of development funding, and the lack of support for Afghan civil servants are unraveling the two decades of development progress that western leaders vowed to protect.”
He noted that families across the country face unemployment, leading to lower demand among local businesses which in turn leads to further job losses. He called for the international community to urgently provide funding to the country as well as “the phased and closely monitored unfreezing of assets.”
The question of frozen assets
Advocates for Afghanistan have criticized U.S.’s decision to freeze a portion of the country’s assets and decried a proposal for the U.S. to use some of them to support families affected by 9/11.
Afghanistan’s assets rightfully belong to Afghanistan, said Zubair Iqbal, a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington.
However, while unfreezing the funds would help bring immediate help to alleviate Afghanistan’s crisis, the country will need more support in the long-term, said Iqbal, who previously worked at the International Monetary Fund for more than 30 years.
The solution is to grant foreign aid to Afghanistan in a sustainable way to allow recovery, while managing its spending through an independent entity, he said.
Concerns around a proposal in the U.S. to use some of the Afghan assets to support families affected by 9/11 prompted a group of Afghan women to write an open letter to U.S. President Joe Biden in February.
“Taking funds from the Afghan people is the unkindest and most inappropriate response for a country that is going through the worst humanitarian crisis in its history,” the letter reads. “It is the squeezing of a wounded hand.”
Freezing the assets from the Taliban was the right decision, said one of the signatories in an interview, but they belong to the Afghan people and must be released to address the humanitarian crisis.
“My expectation from the international community is to put serious attention on Afghanistan,” said Roshan Mashal, former deputy director of Afghan Women’s Network, who left Afghanistan after the takeover and is now a fellow at the University of Texas at Arlington.
She called for coordination on how countries engage with the Taliban and to support the country’s people, as millions of Afghans face hunger and economic crisis.
“Don’t forget them,” she said.
“My Hijab instils British values in schools”
Wearing my hijab as a school teacher educates my students about British values and other cultures and religions.
As a secondary school science teacher who wears the hijab, I have had the opportunity to work in a variety of schools – including a state all-girls school, a Catholic all-boys school and a state mixed school. In every school environment I have worked in, I have always been met with respect by both colleagues and students.
Anyone who has worked in a school environment will know that pupils are always intrigued to know more about the personal lives of the teachers around them. This often helps foster a positive relationship in the classroom, and helps students feel comfortable and confident in class. I have been asked numerous questions about my age, my education, my marriage, and (being a visible, hijab-wearing teacher) my faith. I tend not to shy away from questions about my faith. I see it as an opportunity to teach students about the realities of Islam (which are misconstrued in the media).
The school I currently work at, in Surrey in the UK, has pupils from a predominantly white working-class background. Some of these pupils have never had the opportunity to openly ask Muslims questions about their faith. Since working here I have been asked questions such as:
“Why do you wear a scarf miss?”
“Do you wear the scarf at home?”
“Why do Muslims pray five times a day?”
“Miss, are you doing Ramadan?”
And my personal favourite was from a student who had picked up the word “Mashallah” (an Arabic word indicating praise or approval which means ‘as Allah willed’) from TikTok and asked me what it means.
Children, by nature, are curious about the world around them. As teachers, we are here to develop that curiosity and understanding. This job is not limited to the subject we teach. If we have a look at the National Curriculum Framework in England (for KS1-KS4), one of the key aims of the curriculum is to provide “pupils with an introduction to the essential knowledge they need to be educated citizens”. The Department for Education has also highlighted the importance of promoting British values within schools, which states that all schools “have a duty to ‘actively promote’ the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.”
Giving my non-Muslim students a safe space to ask me various questions about my faith and personal life allows them to see that, despite being a hijab-wearing teacher, they can relate to aspects of my life, which shows that I am not that different to them. This helps build a bridge between Muslim and non-Muslim communities, develops social integration and fosters those British values (of respect and tolerance) within students.
Having a hijab-wearing teacher also has another positive impact on Muslim students within schools.
The girls’ school that I worked at was a very diverse school in London, which had a large proportion of young Muslim girls. It was evident that being represented within the teaching staff, and having a teacher “like them” had a powerful impact on confidence, motivation, and (as a result) attainment. I noticed the ‘shy’ girls coming out of their shells, and starting to raise their hand more in class. It was also evident that they felt more confident talking about their culture and faith around non-Muslims. This phenomena exists across the globe, with the Center for American Progress reporting that an increase in diversity amongst the public school teaching force enhances student performance amongst students of the same background.
The power of representation is well known across all sectors of society. There was a particular incident at school where one of my colleagues, who was in charge of creating resources for PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education) days, had mistakenly included some false information about arranged marriages and the Islamic Nikah (marriage contract). Upon seeing this, I was able to educate this particular colleague about Islam and remove misconceptions. This led to the colleague asking me to fact-check all the information on Islam she decided to use in her presentations in the future. As a school community, this led to all students and teachers within the school receiving the correct information about Islam and my culture. It is evident that both adults and children reap the benefits of representation.
It would be naïve to assume that Muslims in the workplace do not struggle because of their identity. However, it is only through becoming visible ambassadors of Islam that we can open up avenues to have positive, and educational conversations with those around us. The hijab is my identity as a Muslim woman. Being free to express my identity at work has enabled me to build strong relationships with both pupils and colleagues, which has made me the teacher I am today. We have a responsibility to make sure that all students feel the same confidence regarding their religion, culture, and identity within schools so that they can reach their potential and become ‘educated citizens’ of the future.
18 Year Old Massacres 14 Elementary Students and a Teacher in Texas
- Salvador Ramos, an 18 year old, entered Robb elementary School in Uvalde, Texas with a handgun and shot dead 14 children and a teacher before being taken down by an officer.
- The incident occurred at 11:32 am on Tuesday May 24th, 2022. Two reporting officers have also been injured trying to capture the shooter. Ramos has been reported dead as well.
- Ramos had also killed his grandmother right before driving to the elementary school.
- Investigation is still taking place as the school is trying to make sure all the other students are accounted for and handed off to their parents safely.
- President Biden is to speak on the school shooting this evening. Just this year, 2022, alone, there have been 27 school shooting incidents in the United States thus far.
Black Students in England Face Alarming Rates of Exclusions and Over Policing
Education is hailed as the key to establishing a world built upon more just foundations. But while this can definitely be the case, systemic practices in the West mean that educational institutions are not always geared towards being just. A recent Commission on Young Lives report in England shows that it is often in schools that racism and prejudices start, especially targeting Black students.
The report detailed the exclusion of Black students in schools, their adultification and the discrimination they face — from subtle racism to overt expressions of it. It shared the stories of many Black students who had been impacted by discrimination in their schools, and then proposed recommendations that schools should take into account.
Exclusions are a form of discipline practiced in schools across the West, but they often disproportionately impact Black students. Across England the report found that over seven years, there was a 55% increase in the number of students being permanently excluded from schools. Similarly, there was a 40% increase on temporary exclusions.
The upward trend in exclusions handed out to young Black students later leads to the criminalization of Black people and their overrepresentation in the country’s jails. Statistics prove that many of those who receive cautions or sentences for offences have previously been excluded from schools. For some Black students, when going to school is off of the table, they must find another way to sustain themselves. Stefan, someone who was excluded from his school, testified in the report that this was the case for him. “When someone gets kicked out of school [they are] pushed right into the groomers’ hands.”
Instead of teaching a child a lesson, like school discipline is supposed to do, the disproportionate rate of exclusions among Black students sets them up for failure and criminalization.
For some Black students, however, their exclusions have nothing to do with crime at all. Instead, they come from the discriminatory discipline policies that target Black pupils like the banning of black hairstyles, kissing teeth and fist bumps, among other things.
These policies do not only directly impact the education of Black people by kicking them out of school all together, on the basis of cultural identity, but they further the injustice against Black students by giving it an excuse to continue. When the school administration can penalize Black students for their forms of expression, students follow suit in teasing, bullying and discrimination against Black children. In the long run, then, instead of eradicating prejudices, the unfair treatment of Black students perpetuates them.
There is also significant evidence of over policing of Black students in British schools, leading to the adultification of young Black children. The term “adultification” describes a form of prejudice in which children from a minority group are made to seem less innocent based on their racial or ethnic identity.
The over policing of Black students comes as a result of the stereotypes that they are more aggressive, less innocent and the type of people to be protected from instead of the type of people to be protected.
In many cases, police have been found to treat young Black girls in a horrifying manner when called to schools for investigations, strip searching them at such a vulnerable age. It was found that although black Caribbean children make up only 5% of secondary school students, over 17% of strip-search cases are related to them.
The fact that the police and educational institutions are involved in the harmful treatment of Black students means that there is no one at an authoritative level that is taking a step forward in protecting minor Black children the way they should be. Subsequently, the disproportionate rate at which Black students are mistreated continues to skyrocket.
The unjust treatment of Black pupils in the education system means that they are not able to receive the same quality of education as the rest of their classmates. It was found that of all boys aged 15-17 in Youth Offender Institutions, only 50% have literacy rates above the average 7-11 year old.
When they are forced to spend more time worrying about the consequences of displaying their cultural identity or the implications of being treated way older than they actually are, Black students face statistically proven disadvantages. Down the line, Black adults find less job opportunities, are more highly criminalized, and have lower rates of graduation/post-secondary acceptance.
It is not enough for schools to simply be responsible for teaching students justice. The teachers, staff, environment, curriculum, policies and community will all have to exhibit behaviours that exemplify justice.
Educational institutions will have to take a step forward in the protection of Black children. That means understanding that there are differences in treatment towards Black students that are harmful. That means introducing better policies, race equality teaching for staff and students, ending policing in schools and hiring more Black staff in schools.
That means that Black children must be seen as children. Black children must be seen as learners. Black children must be seen.
We cannot only leave change up to the future, it’s got to start in the present. If education is where the change in our world is going to start, then the change must start with schools.
I am a student from Ontario, Canada, and an aspiring journalist. I enjoy reading, writing and learning about the world around us - the issues with it and how we can make it a better place.
OPINION: We Need to Tackle Misogyny and ‘Incel Culture’ in Society not Just in Schools￼
Discussions of misogyny in the workplace has always been a topic. From women being treated unfairly at work, unequal pay to sexual harrassment by their male colleagues.
Society has progressed significantly over the past few decades, from when women were not allowed to vote or own property to seeing successful women in powerful positions such as Angela Merkel, Kamala Harris, Jacinda Ardern etc.
However, there are always incidents that make one question whether society really has progressed to the extent like we think it has.
A recent article in the Guardian has claimed that 70% of female teachers have faced misogyny in UK schools.
The article describes that female teachers have been subjected to misogyny and even sexual harrassment by their male colleagues and male students.
Contributors have reported some incidents on SKY news:
- “Year 9 boys asking in class if I’d had breast implants. I have had my backside grabbed in corridor by pupils.” Another said: “My mentor when I was teacher training said he was going to ‘tie me up and rape me’.”
- One said that a student had asked “Is it your time of the month miss?”, while others reported sexualised remarks about their appearance.
- Another responded said pupils had exposed themselves or made sexual noises or gestures during lessons
The article also reports that: Teachers have raised concerns about the influence of “incel” subculture on teenage boys, as a survey revealed that seven in 10 female teachers have been victims of misogyny in school.
What is Incel culture and how does it link to misogny at school?
The definition of Incel culture is: “An incel is a member of an online subculture of people who define themselves as unable to get a romantic or sexual partner despite desiring one”.
There are online forums on various social media platforms where men, mostly younger men and teenagers come together and discuss their frustrations and hatred towards women.
Root causes for why men join such a group may possibly be the lack of self-esteem, self pity and rejection by women, early exposure to pornography and witnessing unhealthy relationships at home.
Other causes could be the distorted expectations and pressures that have been set on relationships by society, on social media and the oversexualisation of women in mainstream media.
These ideas are not reality and can lead to men being disrespectful to women, treating them as objects and not giving them the respect they deserve.
The sanctity of relationships especially love relationships has been contaminated which is why as a society we need to reform the objective and purpose of relationships.
What can be done?
The numbers of women in schools or any other work environments reporting such high numbers of misogyny and harrassment is concerning.
The fact that people of the Incel culture have been involved in several crimes towards women is also worrisome.
This raises the question of what sort of actions can be taken to reduce this number.
One such thing could be to educate young men and women much more in school environments.
Teach the importance of treating everybody equally.
More severe laws need to be passed that protect the dignity of women in the workplace and more.
There need to be real consequences for such actions in conjuction with destigmatisation of women who come forward to report such events.
OPINION: Teachers to Explore “Dehumanising” Impact of Pornography on Pupils – Why not on ALL of society?
This week during a national conference in the UK, teachers will discuss and explore the “dehumanising” impact that pornography, showing “humiliation of women”, has on students, but is this not a conversation we should be having about its impact on our society as a whole?
The conference is arranged by the National Education Union’s (NEU) in Bournemouth, UK. Educators are expected to discuss concerns over “the prevalence of pornography which shows the harmful and humiliating treatment of women”.
Additionally the conference will deal with the question of whether the current education of sex and relationship is enough to deal with more serious issues like misogyny, sexism and consent. The idea of NEU is that being unable to deal with such issues properly, can leave students vulnerable to being “miseducated” by watching porn.
The Ofsted report in 2021 found that 90% of girls and 50% of boys had reported that either they or their peers had received explicit pictures that they did not wish to see “a lot” or “sometimes”. This report was very concerning for NEU and pushed it to raise the question at the national conference.
The thousands of disclosures of sexual harassment and sexual violence involving state and independent schools, as well as universities on the website Everyone’s Invited, triggered the review.
Disclosures made by students include more than 51,000 testimonies, shared on the website. Hundreds of education settings across the UK and a full spectrum of abusive behaviour in them was reported.
The evidence that pornography “predominantly features young women being subjected to acts of violence such as strangulation and choking as well as racialised tropes, all of which dehumanise women”, will be looked at the conference by NEU. And there will also be debate about the increasingly sexualised nature of social media.
The question that begs to be asked though is when we as a society recognise the vulgar and morally corrosive impacts of pornography, why are we only discussing it in the realm of children and students? Instead, there is a dire need for us to have serious conversations about the place of vulgar and explicit content of this sort in our society at all, with the aim of stamping it out for all, not just our students.
Material that degrades and dehumanises women, does not suddenly become acceptable when we turn 18. Easy access to this kind of vulgar material continues to plague our society, so it’s about time we put an end to porn.
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