Families leave Afghanistan in pursuit of daughters' education

By Ehsanullah

Afghan schoolgirls walk through the rain along a road in Paghman district on the outskirts of Kabul on March 30. [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

Afghan schoolgirls walk through the rain along a road in Paghman district on the outskirts of Kabul on March 30. [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

KABUL – Many Afghan families with school-age children have abandoned their homeland or are considering doing so in order to obtain an education for their daughters while girls' schools in Afghanistan remain closed.

Some families told Salaam Times they left the country despite the challenges of immigration, while others said they are trying to leave as soon as possible.

Kabul native Ahmad Shah Sakhi Zada, who now lives in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, said he left Afghanistan "for the future of my daughters, so they can continue their education".

Sakhi Zada told Salaam Times he had high hopes that his daughters, who are now in the seventh and ninth grades, could eventually qualify for professional careers in the medical or financial fields.

"But they were confined at home" after August 2021, he said. "Now that girls' schools are closed in Afghanistan, I had to immigrate to Pakistan."

"I sold my house, car and all my belongings in Afghanistan at a low price to cover the very high costs of immigration," he said. "This is very painful."

Kabul resident Shakib Mansuri, who has three daughters, told Salaam Times he has decided to leave Afghanistan for their sake.

"We were hopeful that girls' schools would open at the start of the current year and that my daughter could attend," he said. "However, we now have lost all hope."

Mansuri said his three daughters were in the 8th, 10th and 11th grades before August 2021 but no longer may attend school.

"Everyone is educated in my family, and we all recognise the value and importance of education," he said. This is why we have decided to leave the country and go somewhere that my daughters may study."

Kabul resident Freshta Yaqoubi also has decided to leave Afghanistan for her daughters' future, she told Salaam Times.

"My daughter was in the 12th grade and would have gone to university, and my other daughter was in 10th grade and should have finished high school by now," Yaqoubi said. "However, they could not continue their education."

Out of concern for their mental health and well-being -- both are deeply affected by their inability to continue school -- Yaqoubi sold her house for 1.2 million AFN ($13,900) to cover the cost of immigrating to a Western country.

"We are leaving the country out of necessity, and it is not an easy decision," she said.

Irreparable damage

Prohibiting girls from continuing their education will deprive future generations of basic literacy and other skills, which will have wider repercussions on society, Kabul-based civil society activist Rahimullah Mirzaei told Salaam Times.

"Depriving girls of education means that in a few years, we will not have female professors, female doctors or nurses, or women in other fields," he said.

"This will become a big challenge for society."

"We have seen that a large number of Afghans have left the country in the past year and a half because of the closure of girls' schools," Mirzaei said, noting that many have faced hardships and even death as they attempted to immigrate.

"Women make up half of Afghan society," Türkiye-based university lecturer Fahim Chakari told Salaam Times. "The ban on girls' education causes irreversible damage to the country's economy and social condition."

The outflow of families who are leaving Afghanistan so their daughters may attend school is "not good for the country's education system", Chakari said.

"A continued ban on girls' schooling would be a great setback for our society" and would have serious social implications in the long run, he added.

The current state of affairs in Afghanistan is "disappointing", said Canada-based human rights defender Dima Heram, who has been trying to improve girls' access to education in Afghanistan for several years.

"Many Afghan families have left the country for the future of their daughters and because they do not want their daughters and female relatives to live in fear and uncertainty," she told Salaam Times.

"It seems that the global community has forgotten the misery and suffering of 20 million Afghan girls and women over the past year," she said, adding that it is "humiliating" that women have to beg for their basic rights in the 21st century.

Arwain online school principal Sayed Bashir Tariq expressed great concern about the closure of girls' schools, saying he had no adequate words to describe his feelings about the situation.

"Nearly half of Afghan society is made up of women, and the absence of girls above grade six [from schools] will force several generations to remain illiterate and stay away from education," Tariq said.

"It will be a great setback for our society."

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