The older girls in Afghanistan’s schools are accustomed to the process when inspectors arrive at the school gate, which occurs almost every week now. They sneak out of class, dash to a musty room, and huddle there for an extended period of time, sometimes even hours, to avoid being seen by the guys who want to keep them locked up at home. The Taliban are the only organization in the world that forbids girls from attending secondary school.
Learning algebra is now considered an illegal act of resistance after the US military left the country and a militant group took control. Teenagers must consider what will happen if they are discovered in a classroom, in addition to worrying about difficult arithmetic, English grammar, or Persian poetry.
Taliban representatives claim that the prohibition is only temporary, citing a variety of reasons such as the need to change security, uniforms, teachers, buildings, or curricula. However, many Afghans recall the group’s previous six-year rule, during which female schools were ‘temporarily’ closed.
As a result, women and men throughout Afghanistan began to resist as their daughters felt the agony of having their dreams of becoming physicians, pilots, engineers, teachers, or artists crushed. ‘Secret schools’ have sprouted up all over the country, as diverse as the teachers in charge of them. Some are available online, but only a small percentage of Afghans own cell phones and have internet access.
Some are private schools that continue to operate largely as before, free of the specter of terror. Others are far more impromptu attempts that serve as morale boosters and alternatives for female students who are studying in the hope that schools will reopen.