World Student Day is observed annually on November 17th, marking a day of historical importance while shedding light on the issues affecting students worldwide. In Afghanistan, students face challenges that extend beyond resource limitations and cramped spaces, encompassing feelings of despair, forced deprivation, and apprehension about an uncertain future.
On World Student Day, while many societies celebrate the importance of education, it’s disheartening to note that for the second consecutive year, Afghan girls have been deprived of the opportunity to pursue their studies and attend universities. Students express that these forced deprivations and the infringement on their freedoms have made life in Afghanistan nearly impossible, leading them to contemplate migration. Due to these constraints, some have already left the country in search of a safer and healthier life.
Elham Nabizada, the top scorer in Afghanistan’s nationwide university entrance exam for girls in the year 2022, spoke on the occasion of World Student Day, saying, “When the exam results were announced, it was truly one of the best days of my life, but I never thought I would carry the regret of not being able to go to university in my heart…”
She never even once set foot on a university campus because the Taliban administration has a problem with girls attending universities and has imposed a two-year ban on girls’ education.
Elham Nabizada is from Herat province, Afghanistan, and completed her education at the Mulana Abdullah Atifi Girls’ High School. She says, “During our preparation for the university entrance exam, five friends dreamed of getting into the medical field… We achieved that dream, but we could never go to university.”
Being barred from university gates, schools, and educational centres, deprived of the right to work, social restrictions, and forced marriages – all of these challenges contribute to creating a suffocating environment for girls and women in Afghanistan.
Shukria, a 19-year-old student from the top-ranked students’ class at Kaj School, used to walk two kilometres an hour every day and studied hard day and night to excel in her desired field. On a Saturday morning, 30th September 2022, she set off for Kaj School with her friend and classmate Hakima to take a practice university entrance exam. Around 7:30, while she was deeply engrossed in solving math problems, this educational centre became the target of a deadly terrorist attack.
Shukria was found in Mohammad Ali Jinnah Hospital. She was wounded, her tent and hair were burned, and her right ear was severely injured. She still feels pain in her chest area. Shukria was in deep shock, and doctors prescribed nerve medications for her, but none of these events stopped her from taking the university entrance exam (Konkur).
The attack on Kaj Educational Center happened when little time was left for the nationwide Konkur exam. However, Shukria and her injured friends participated in this test with determined spirits. Shukria scored 280 in the Pharmacy field at Kabul University but was never allowed to continue her education.
Shukria, too, left Afghanistan and became a migrant. She says, “The experience we had at Kaj Educational Center is so bitter and unforgettable that it cannot be described in words.” However, the deprivation of girls from education is what forced her to migrate.
Jawad, a Kabul University student, says, “The spirit of education among students has been shattered, and everyone is thinking of escaping from Afghanistan.”
According to him, no students care about studying and the quality of the educational materials anymore: “Students who are currently studying in various fields are those who have no other options. It’s not that students are passionate about studying in a particular field because going to university has now become a duty that may be better than staying at home. Otherwise, becoming a beggar student is a hundred times better than the hopeless situation of students at Kabul University.”
It should be noted that the state of education in Afghanistan is on the international community’s agenda. Many countries, non-governmental organizations, and international organizations strive to assist Afghan students and pupils and support them in continuing their education and building a better life.
Many universities and higher education institutions worldwide offer programs to welcome Afghan students and have launched exceptional educational opportunities. Additionally, online scholarship programs and free educational courses have been initiated to help Afghan students, providing unique educational support.
Furthermore, international organizations such as the United Nations, UNESCO, and human rights organizations are also working to increase international pressure on Afghanistan to ensure the right to education for all Afghan citizens, especially girls and women.
However, many challenges remain in finding solutions to these problems. Creating equal access to education for all Afghans, especially women and girls, requires more effort. Additionally, establishing security and stability in Afghanistan is necessary to maintain the educational environment and infrastructure.