UNICEF Chief: Taliban Committed to Let Girls Back to School

    01 March 2022

    Catherine Russell is the newly appointed chief of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

    She said on February 25 that the Taliban leaders in Afghanistan are showing a "commitment" to permitting girls to go to school across the country next month.

    The international community has demanded the Taliban continue educating women.

    Catherine Russell, UNICEF's executive director, speaks during with the Associated Press in Kabul, Afghanistan, on February 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
    Catherine Russell, UNICEF's executive director, speaks during with the Associated Press in Kabul, Afghanistan, on February 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

    Russell was appointed earlier in February. She said it remains to be seen if the Taliban's commitment to reopening schools for girls and women on March 21 will change conditions or restrictions.

    Russell told the Associated Press that Taliban officials have given UNICEF signs that they will open schools for girls and women. She said that "we are hopeful that is going to happen, and we believe it should happen."

    Even though there is no legal ban, girls around the age of 12 have effectively been barred from going to school in most of the country since the Taliban took control six months ago. The Taliban government has blamed delays on lack of good spaces, especially in cities, to support schools that must have a separate area for girls.

    Schools in about 10 provinces have continued without stopping since the Taliban takeover. Private universities and schools in the capital, Kabul, have remained open. Universities for women have also restarted in several provinces. The Taliban government has promised all universities will reopen for women in the coming weeks.

    Apart from statements saying that schools will re-open for all girls, little else has been made public about other possible restrictions or changes in education.

    Russell said she met with Taliban officials this week to discuss concerns from child health to rights to education.

    The United Nations and international organizations face growing difficulties with Afghanistan's increasing humanitarian crisis. The U.N. projects this year that over one million children will need treatment for malnutrition and that 97 percent of Afghans could be living below the line of poverty. A UNICEF $2 billion request from donors for aid is only 17 percent financed.

    Kabul's Indira Gandhi Hospital for Children is filled with mother's from across the country seeking treatment for their malnourished babies.

    Zermina Mohammed said she did not have the $10 needed to pay for medication. She asked a family member in Kabul for the money. But as she held her sick baby, she said she still needs more.

    As more people become poor, billions of dollars of Afghanistan's foreign monies are blocked to the still un-recognized Taliban government. The government is still unable to pay public workers, including people in health and education. Donors and nongovernmental-organizations have picked up the costs.

    Russell said money from the European Union is paying teachers. She said that the system is by no means a long-term solution.

    "It's not something that humanitarian organizations can solve on their own," Russell said.

    I'm Gregory Stachel.

    Samya Kullab reported this story for The Associated Press. Gregory Stachel adapted it for VOA Learning English with additional material from Reuters.


    Words in This Story

    commitment – n. a promise to do or give something

    province – n. any one of the large parts that some countries are divided into

    humanitarian – adj. concerned with or seeking to promote human welfare

    malnutrition – n. the unhealthy condition that results from not eating enough food or not eating enough healthy food

    poverty– n. the state of being poor

    de-facto – adj. used to describe something that exists but that is not officially accepted or recognized

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