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Afghan girls ordered to return home just hours after schools reopen

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KABUL: The Taliban ordered girls’ secondary schools in Afghanistan to shut down on Wednesday just hours after they reopened, an official confirmed, sparking confusion and heartbreak over the policy reversal by the group.

The Taliban will allow girls around Afghanistan to return to class when high schools open next week, an education official had said last Thursday, after months of uncertainty over whether the group would allow full access to education for girls and women.

“Yes, it’s true,” Taliban spokesman Inamullah Samangani told western media when asked to confirm reports that girls had been ordered home.

He would not immediately explain the reasoning, while education ministry spokesman Aziz Ahmad Rayan said: “We are not allowed to comment on this”.

The international community has made the right to education for all a sticking point in negotiations over aid and recognition of the new Taliban regime.

On Wednesday, the order for girls’ secondary schools to resume appeared to only be patchily observed, with reports emerging from some parts of the country including the Taliban´s spiritual heartland of Kandahar that classes would restart next month instead.

“I see my students crying and reluctant to leave classes,” said Palwasha, a teacher at Omra Khan girls’ school in Kabul.

“It is very painful to see your students crying.”

United Nations envoy Deborah Lyons called reports of the closure “disturbing”.

“If true, what could possibly be the reason?” she tweeted.

When the Taliban took over last August, schools were closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but only boys and younger girls were allowed to resume classes two months later.

There were fears the Taliban would shut down all formal education for girls, as they did during their first stint in power from 1996 to 2001.

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