The move applies to 31 out of 34 provinces in Afghanistan ahead of the late December winter break, with most of the tests starting on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported. To some Afghan women, the move is a slap in the face.
“This is ridiculous,” 12th-grader Najela said. “We spent a whole year under tension and stress and haven’t read a single page of our textbooks. … How can we possibly take an exam after a year and a half that the Taliban have kept school doors closed?”
After toppling the U.S.-backed government and returning to power, the Taliban stoked international outrage earlier in the year for enacting a ban on girls attending school beyond sixth grade.
One principal claimed to have been told that girls in 12th grade will have exams in 14 subjects with 10 questions per subject, something she derided as “meaningless” due to the lack of textbooks among female students.
The three outstanding provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, and Nimroz that haven’t gotten the go-ahead for girls to take the exams have different scheduling for the school year.
Girls who fail the exam or do not take it will reportedly be given another opportunity in mid-March after schools reconvene from winter break.
Under Taliban rule, women have been straddled with harsh restrictions on employment, and they have also been ordered to cover from head to toe, reminiscent of the group’s hard-line rule of the 1990s.
Many international groups from the United Nations and Western nations have roundly condemned the Taliban’s draconian treatment of women and other human rights concerns. Meanwhile, acute hunger and poverty have been on the rise in the war-torn nation.
Over 60% of Afghanistan’s population (24 million people) was estimated to be in dire need of humanitarian assistance such as medical supplies and food, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs warned earlier this year.