The Taliban have issued a notice in the last 24 hours calling on schools for girls over Year 6 to be shut “in accordance with Islamic law and Afghan culture,” according to the government news agency, Bakhtar.
The Ministry of Education released a statement announcing the school closure for girls on Wednesday.
“We inform all girls high schools and those schools that are having female students above class six that they are off until the next order,” the notice read.
When questioned about the reason for these closures, spokesperson from the Ministry, Aziz Ahmad Rayan said “We are not allowed to comment on this,” though admitted there was a shortage of teachers, due to many fleeing the country over the past few months after the Taliban took power in August last year.
“We need thousands of teachers and to solve this problem we are trying to hire new teachers on a temporary basis,” Rayan said.
The decision comes just a week after the Ministry announced that schools for all students – including girls, would open across the country on Wednesday, which would be the first day of Afghanistan’s new school year.
In the same week, the ministry even released a video celebrating the students’ return to class.
After the decision was reversed, an AFP team of journalists filmed students and teachers at a public high school in Kabul, showing a teacher entering a class to announce that it had to cease.
“I see my students crying and reluctant to leave classes,” one teacher at a girls’ school in Kabul said.
“It is very painful to see your students crying.”
One student told the journalists, “We all got disappointed and we all became totally hopeless when the principal told us, she was also crying.”
Taliban spokesman Inamullah Samangani spoke to AFP, confirming the reports that girls over Year 6 were no longer allowed to attend school.
Shukria Barakzai, a prominent Afghan politician, journalist and Muslim feminist based in London, told Al Jazeera the reversal of the decision is a disappointment, and proves the Taliban are opposed to the education of girls.
“It’s very disappointing that girls, who were waiting for this day, made to return from school,” she said. “It shows that Taliban are not reliable and cannot fulfil their promises.”
“It means that secondary and high schools are banned for girls. Even primary schools are not open across the country. Most of the provinces do not have girls’ primary schools.”
“It shows that the Taliban is exactly the same as before – they are against girls’ education.”
Nobel Prize laureate and girls’ rights activist Malala Yousafzai tweeted:
“I had one hope for today: that Afghan girls walking to school would not be sent back home. But the Taliban did not keep their promise.”
“They will keep finding excuses to stop girls from learning – because they are afraid of educated girls and empowered women.”
Secretary-General of the UN, António Guterres tweeted his reaction, saying, “The failure by Taliban authorities to reopen schools for girls above 6th grade is profoundly disappointing & damaging for Afghanistan.”
“I urge the de facto authorities to open schools for all students without any further delay.”
Journalist and former Australian newsreader, Yalda Hakim tweeted: “Afghsn girls crying after discovering the ban on their education continues. The Taliban had promised they would be able to return to their schools today. A broken promise. Cruel to put these teenage girls through this.”