By Shakiba Hakimi
From the 650 students who were registered in the only private university in the northern province of Samangan, 220 have quit since the Taliban returned to power, university officials said on Wednesday.
In celebration of the international student day on November 17, a vice chancellor of the university, Mawlana Jalaluddin Mohammad Balkhi, said one-third of students never returned to class after the university reopened on September 6.
The vice chancellor, who asked not to be named due to security reasons, said the university reopened to both men and women with some adjustments to meet the Taliban’s gender policy.
Initially the Taliban ordered a separate building for female students and professors. Since it was not possible for the university to find a separate building and enough female professors and students, they couldn’t implement the exact policy, according to the vice chancellor.
He did not say how many female students quit, but said the classes where a few women still attend, students are separated by a curtain.
The university still has three women professors who deliver their lectures in head-to-toe dress, where only their eyes are visible.
Mawlana Jalaluddin Mohammad Balkhi, which has two departments, political science & law and economics, is the second-largest university for the entire province, alongside Samangan’s public university.
The vice chancellor is particularly worried about the future of female students in the province. “Most of the girls are hopeless. When we emphasize that they should continue their education, they say ‘how should we continue under the current circumstances?’”
A 26 year-old senior student of law and political science who spoke under the pseudonym, Shakila, said she wanted to become a lawyer, but now with the Taliban in power, she feels her hard work was in vain. “The Taliban destroyed my dreams,” she told Rukhshana Media.
Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in mid-August, the group has “temporarily” banned almost all women’s work and education. The group says it is working on a framework to allow women to return to school and education, but has not provided a timeline.
In mid-September, the Taliban’s acting minister for higher education said that women will be allowed to attend university but only in “Islamic dress” and once the classrooms have been divided by gender. “We will not allow boys and girls to study together,” said Abdul Baqi Haqqani, the acting minister in a press conference on September 12.