by Eamon Rafter
IFGE advocates for and supports the right to education for all. We are deeply concerned that the promised opening of schools in Afghanistan did not take place on 23rd March and that girls are still being denied their right to access secondary education. We, therefore, support the call through Protect Education in Emergencies Now! for the Afghan authorities to ensure that girls and women have equal opportunities to fulfil their right to education. We join the demand for all schools in Afghanistan to be immediately reopened and for the right to education of adolescent girls to be protected and realised.
Since the return of the Taliban last August, girls in Afghanistan have been denied their fundamental right of access to education and the chance to create a better future for themselves and their society. International human rights law guarantees the right to education. The Universal Declaration on Human Rights, adopted in 1948, proclaims in Article 26: ‘everyone has the right to education.’ This right has also been reaffirmed in other treaties covering specific groups e.g. women and girls, persons with disabilities, refugees, contexts such as armed conflict and has been incorporated into various regional treaties and enshrined as a right in the vast majority of national constitutions to education.
The Taliban decision to keep the schools closed and deny the right to education for girls is part of the wider context of denial of rights and violence against girls and women in Afghanistan. Afghan women have demanded the reopening of schools, but any assertion of rights for women has been met with violence and harsh enforcement. Faizia Sadat of the Afghan Women’s Network (AWN) recently spoke about how she feels that the world has abandoned Afghanistan and how women are held prisoner by the Taliban. The failure to re-open schools has been strongly condemned by the U.N. The Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said: ‘The denial of education not only violates the equal rights of women and girls to education, it also jeopardises the country’s future in view of the tremendous contributions by Afghan women and girls’(1)
IFGE will continue to support the right of girls and women of Afghanistan to access education and add our voice to the global movement to promote policies and action that can help the realisation of this right. We strongly support Right to Education Initiative | (right-to-education.org) who state that ‘The mobilisation of civil society to pressure states to implement the right to education can have a very powerful impact’. We need to be active at school and community level as well as regional, national or international level.
IFGE commends Global Partnership for Education (GPE) announcement on 31st March of up to $300 million to support education in Afghanistan over the next three years. By making education for girls in Afghanistan especially a priority they are seeking to prevent the loss of a generation and saving education from collapse. Financial support for education in Afghanistan will have to be continued and extended if there is to be hope for the future of the Afghan people. It should be noted that Ireland has supported GPE with funding from Irish Aid for recruitment and training of female teachers especially in rural areas in Afghanistan. This has helped to raise the enrolment of girls in primary education. This continuing funding for GPE is an indication of Ireland’s commitment to girls education.
 United Nations (2022). Secretary-General Regrets Suspension of Girls’ Education in Afghanistan, Urging Taliban De Facto Authorities to Open Schools for All Students. Retrieved from https://www.un.org/press/en/2022/sgsm21199.doc.htm on March 24 2022