Afghan Girls Return to School for First Time Since '96
For the first time since the Taliban took power in 1996, Afghan girls and female teachers returned to Afghanistan's public schools on March 23. While the schools remain understaffed, overcrowded, and under funded, Afghans expressed exuberance at the new freedom found there. Hamid Karzai, head of
Afghanistan’s interim government, gave an emotional address to Amani High School students and staff, saying, "Today, we cry from happiness." Many girls find themselves well behind, having been banned from school for more than five years. Nonetheless, they are entering at whatever grade they are accepted into, happy for the opportunity to begin to catch up. Those who can afford it are taking "cram" courses to make up grades. Girls who managed to sneak some home schooling during Taliban rule are in better shape than others to return; many young girls were married off to older men by desperately poor parents and will never get that chance. The illiteracy rate is now 80 percent for women and 60 percent for men. Welcoming girls and women teachers back to school may be the first and most important step towards rebuilding a viable and stable democracy in Afghanistan.