Secret schools educate Afghan girls despite the Taliban ban.

When the current Afghan government took over on August 15, 2021, many Afghans were prepared for a return to the tyranny that characterized the extremist group’s brutal rule in the 1990s.
A news conference was held shortly after the takeover. One of the senior leaders insisted that women and girls would be protected from violence and that education would remain a right for all.

The ruling Afghan government’s promises were soon broken. Girls were restricted from going to school for secondary education and from attending university. Women were ordered to stay in their homes. Last December, all local and international NGOs, including the United Nations, were ordered to stop their female employees from coming to work. This year, the Taliban closed all beauty salons across the country, an industry that had employed roughly 60,000 women.

To cope with the loss and to provide education to the girls, an NGO, SRAK, came forward. SRAK is a clandestine network of schools that educates around 400 girls across eight Afghan provinces with the help of 150 brave teachers and staff.

While most public and private schools for girls in Afghanistan remain empty, secret underground schools are spreading. Every morning, girls secretly gather in a house to study. This is something that millions of girls are doing freely around the world.
As the global community marks International Day of Education on Tuesday, Afghanistan is the only country where girls are forbidden to attend school. Calling the restriction on learning and teaching an attack on human dignity, UNESCO has dedicated this year’s observation to Afghan girls and women.
The secret school in Kabul is part of a network of eight across five cities. The school is supported by SRAK, an Afghan organization that, according to its website, works in areas highly affected by the school ban. Srak means “the first ray of morning light” in Pashto.

The owner of the organization concluded that continuing to provide girls with an education was the only way to fight back against the Taliban. In the face of history repeating itself, she turned to the example set by Afghan women who defied the odds more than 25 years ago, the last time the Taliban seized control.