Taliban prohibits women from national university entrance exams

Girls in Kapisa province, July, 2021. File photo.

The Taliban has issued a ban on female students participating in the national university entrance exams, known as Kankor, in Afghanistan. The examination board of the Taliban’s Ministry of Higher Education has declared that only male students are permitted to take part in the exams scheduled for this month.

Following the Taliban’s rise to power, the first national university entrance exam was held in 2022, albeit with restrictions on female candidates’ choice of fields and faculties. These exams offer female students the opportunity to pursue higher education in various provinces across Afghanistan. However, at the end of last year, the Taliban imposed a ban on all female students continuing their studies at universities. Furthermore, girls’ schools have been closed from middle school and above.

The recent decision by the Taliban indicates that female students are now being denied the opportunity to pursue education in all fields. The closure of universities to female students was initially justified by the Taliban government due to mixed-gender classes and the alleged violation of “proper conditions of Islamic Sharia.”

In a letter signed by Nada Mohammad Nadim, the Taliban’s acting minister of higher education, the universities were directed to implement this order “immediately.”

However, last year, officials from the Taliban Examinations Committee stated that certain courses necessary for future classes would not be offered to female students “in order to avoid complications and provide them with separate classes.” The Taliban had previously outlined that there were specific fields, such as agriculture, veterinary medicine, construction engineering, and mining, where women were prohibited from pursuing education in certain areas.

Girls have been unable to graduate from the twelfth grade for the past two years due to the Taliban government’s refusal to reopen girls’ high schools (grades 6-12). In December 2022, the Taliban Ministry of Higher Education issued a letter stating that women and girls would be unable to continue studying in public and private universities “until further notice.”

Over the last two years, the issue of girls’ education and orders concerning women at the leadership level has become a contentious matter. The international community and human rights organizations have consistently criticized the Taliban’s actions in this regard.