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demands that all girls be allowed to go back to school at the start of the Afghan school year | CBC News

The school year in Afghanistan got underway on Tuesday, the education ministry said, as the United Nations (UN) Children’s Organization called again for teenage girls to be allowed back to school.

After signaling a year ago that they would open schools to all students, the Taliban authorities did a U-turn, leaving many girls who showed up to their high school classes in tears, sparking global condemnation of the effort the Taliban to formalize has hampered international recognition.

Since then, primary schools for girls have remained open, but most secondary schools have been closed and the Taliban expelled female students from university in December, sparking international outrage and protests in some Afghan cities.

A letter from the Department of Education confirming the official start of the school year after the winter break this week made no mention of any change in access for girls. The head of the UN Children’s Fund in Afghanistan said authorities must open schools to all students so they can resume socialization and skill-building, as well as academic learning.

“As the new school year begins in Afghanistan, we rejoice at the millions of boys and girls returning to primary school classrooms. However, we are deeply disappointed that adolescent girls are not returning to their classrooms,” said Fran Equiza of UNICEF’s Afghanistan representative in a tweet.

As many Afghan women continue to call for schools to reopen, enrollment in women’s religious schools — the only remaining option — has surged over the past year.

After the Taliban expelled girls from secondary schools, enrollment in religious schools for women has increased. (Ali Khara/Reuters)

In Kunduz province, one of the few northern provinces where some girls’ high schools had quietly remained open over the past year, authorities said they were closed for the time being.

“This year schools are open for girls up to sixth grade, we await further notifications about secondary classes,” Mohammed Ismail Abu Ahmad, head of Kunduz education department, told Reuters.

In the capital Kabul, school openings appeared restricted on Tuesday, which fell on Nowruz, the Persian New Year widely celebrated in Afghanistan, which was previously a public holiday.

The Taliban authorities said last year that they would not recognize Nowruz as a public holiday, although they had not prevented people from celebrating in private.

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