Afghanistan: Girls' despair as Taliban confirm secondary school ban



Teenage schoolgirls in Afghanistan have told the BBC of their growing desperation as they continue to be excluded from school more than three months after the Taliban takeover.

"Not being able to study feels like a death penalty," says 15-year-old Meena. She says that she and her friends feel lost and confused since the closure of their school in north-eastern Badakhshan province.

"We have nothing to do apart from housework… we are just frozen in one place," says Laila, 16, whose school in Takhar province shut the day the Taliban seized power in August.

BBC interviews with students and headteachers in 13 provinces show girls' frustration at still being barred from secondary school, despite assurances from the Taliban that they would be able to resume their studies "as soon as possible".

Teachers, nearly all of whom had not been paid since June, said the situation was affecting girls' wellbeing, with one blaming the closures for the underage marriage of three of her students.

One headteacher from Kabul, who stays in touch with her students via Whatsapp, said: "The students are really upset, they're suffering mentally. I try to give them hope but it's hard because they are exposed to so much sadness and disappointment."

Teachers also reported a worrying drop in attendance among girls in primary schools, who have been allowed to return. They said that increased poverty and security concerns meant families were reluctant to send younger girls to school.