UNICEF concerned by Taliban decision to ban international groups from Afghan education sector

ISLAMABAD (AP) — UNICEF said Thursday it is deeply concerned by reports that the Taliban is driving out international organizations from the education sector in Afghanistan and ordering them to hand over their activities to local nongovernmental groups.

It is the latest restriction on NGOs operating in the country after a ban on female Afghan staff in December, allegedly for not wearing the Islamic headscarf, or hijab, properly and disrespecting gender segregation. At work. In April, the ban was extended to the UN

A WhatsApp voice note, allegedly from a senior education official in Kabul, says all international organizations have a month to hand over their education work to local groups.

The Department of Education was not immediately available to verify the voice note, but aid agency officials told The Associated Press they were aware of the message and took it seriously. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media.

The banning of female Afghan staff from working at the UN was also relayed by a WhatsApp voice note, allegedly from a senior Taliban official.

“As the lead agency for education in Afghanistan, UNICEF is deeply concerned by reports that more than 500,000 children, including more than 300,000 girls, may be losing quality learning due to community education within a month if international non-governmental organizations working in the field of education are no longer allowed to operate and transfers to national NGOs are made without a full assessment and capacity building,” said the agency said in a statement.

“UNICEF is seeking to better understand the reported directive and what it could mean for the national curriculum that provides learning opportunities for children in some of the most remote and rural areas of Afghanistan.”

About 17,000 teachers, including 5,000 women, work in UNICEF education activities.

UNICEF is meeting with the Ministry of Education in Kabul for further information.

Humanitarian sources said some provinces ordered an immediate suspension of all foreign-led educational activities after officials allegedly told Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzada that foreigners are creating their own education ministry and not coordinating their work. with the Taliban.

The latest voice note says the new measure affects all international organizations, even if they are Islamic, and only Afghan NGOs approved by the ministry that agree to the ministry’s conditions can take on education work. The order also affects the construction of schools.

In April, the Taliban closed NGO-supported educational centers and institutes in the south of the country until further notice. The centers were primarily for girls, who are prohibited from going to school beyond the sixth grade.

The ministry did not provide an explanation for the closures at the time. But a spokesperson for the Ministry of Education in Kandahar said the decision was made in response to complaints.

Aid agencies provided food, education and health care to Afghans following the Taliban takeover in August 2021 and the ensuing economic collapse.

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