A functioning education system is vital to democracy worldwide. Without an education system that reaches all parts of society and ultimately the world, democracy is just an empty promise. In Afghanistan where I have been born and educated, I have experienced that, a robust and accessible Afghan education system was and is hampered by a variety of external and internal constraints.
Intimidation and interference from religious extremist are a barrier to women’s education and access to education in general. Across the country (Afghanistan) female’s education is impeded. The inability of the law enforcement to guarantee the physical safety and security of women makes a sensible career in the country an unattractive career option, for the women an impossible one. Women have no access to the education system in Afghanistan. Teachers and especially female teachers have to fear for their lives if they stand up for the education of girls. This is the reality of the education system in Afghanistan.
When the Taliban took over Afghanistan last year, they said that women and girls should not return to school. Without any clear solution to this issue, as per their announcement girls were only allowed to go to school until the sixth grade, i. e. when primary school ends. The Taliban have prevented most girls from attending formal secondary education, but when they recently (December 2022) began enforcing education ban, they left Afghan girls with tears and anger. In one of the most dramatic blows to women’s freedoms since seizing power last year, they banned girls from attending school, effectively instituting a total ban on the education of girls and women. Together with a group of Afghan girls, I decided to do something about it.
Taking Action Instead of Surrendering to Powerlessness
Many activists and women who were involved in the fight for women’s rights as well as humanitarian needs in general were forced to leave the country after the Taliban seized power. Especially those activists who supported the US mission or worked directly for or with the US government or related organizations in Afghanistan had to fear consequences after the Taliban seized power. I was one of them. However, this step for my own safety did not stop me from continuing to stand for girls’ education rights. The lack of access to education for girls and young women was and is my concern too.
That is why Musal Sadat, Tamana Aziz, Sadaf Ahmadi and I, along with other Afghan girls, started posting about online education in some small private Facebook groups. We also reached out to Facebook friends to see how people were responding and if there were any teachers willing to continue teaching students. We reached out to over 30 female volunteer teachers who wanted to serve the young women and girls and teach students in online courses. This has encouraged us to begin work on an online platform that offers courses to girls and young women who would otherwise not have access to basic and continuing education. This is the short version of the story of how we decided to make a difference by developing an online school (Afghan Maktab) for Afghan girls, where girls can shape the future of Afghanistan.
Do we and teachers have to fear trouble with the Taliban? Yes, of course. If we stand up for women’s right to education in Afghanistan, of course we might get in trouble, but if we don’t raise our voice, who will? And if we don’t do anything, who would do it for us? So far, the Taliban have not banned women from online learning. Apparently, they don’t have a problem with online learning. Maybe it just doesn’t happen visibly enough to bother them. Let’s hope it stays that way, so women and girls can continue to have access to education.
Afghan Maktab (Online school) – Mobilizing Afghan Girls
Afghan Maktab helps girls in Afghanistan, to learn and have access to quality educational resources from anywhere using a smartphone phone or tablet.
This online school (Afghan Maktab), is a resource for Afghan women and girls. We (a group of Afghan girls) sent out a call on Facebook for support from any experienced teachers, and 30+ people have signed up for the program since then and we keep posting on different social media platforms for support. We offer different online programs in anything from school subjects, foreign languages and many more.
Afghan Maktab is a complete platform with below main functionalities:
- Students can ask questions about any of the subjects through the application and teachers can answer them.
- Student can provide input to any completed subjects/courses.
- Students can share knowledge, resources, ask questions and communicate with their friends on the platform.
- They can learn about different school subjects, foreign languages and many more.
- Students take tests/quizzes and publish their results on the platform with their friends.
- Dashboard for teachers, students and volunteers to edit their profiles, add their biographies and social media links.
- They can study in their own time, no live sessions to worry about missing any session/course.
The school platform will be integrated to a complete online radio station system so that classes can be streamed live and on-demand with nearly 8kbps audio streams to be accessed by most distant villages in Afghanistan.
I as an Afghan girl will always support girl’s education in Afghanistan, raise my voice and advocate for their rights but I can’t fight this battle on my own. Afghan girls hopes are broken, they are tired to death of this situation and have been squeezed out of public and professional life since the Taliban took over last year. International institutions, human rights organizations and countries need to take action to fight for these young girls and their right to education.
An article by Freshta Sadat.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Solutions Initiative.
The author is member of the extended circle community of the Young Global Changers program.
Freshta Sadat, Afghanistan, is the Founder of Afghan online school (Afghan Maktab). She has over 5 years of industry experience including data analysis/data engineering/management, systems integration management, database admin/management, software development/testing, program and project management. After earning her Bachelor’s degree in software engineering from Kabul University, she started her professional career as an application developer with a private company in Kabul, Afghanistan, then took a job with an international organization and used to work for USAID funded projects in Afghanistan for over 5 years. Freshta is passionate about technology, peace, Human rights, developing and empowering young girls to pursue careers in ICT. She is currently working as quality improvement and data manager for one of the non-profit organizations in the United States.