Ban on female participation in university entrance exam spurs outrage

The Taliban’s recent ban on women and girls from taking part in this year’s university entrance exam, a crucial step toward admission into the country’s universities, has ignited widespread backlash.

A number of girls, who had been eagerly awaiting their enrollment cards for the exam, expressed deep disappointment and contend that the decision has shattered their dreams of a better future.

These young women, who tirelessly prepared to pursue higher education, found themselves disheartened when the Taliban announced that only boys would be allowed to sit for the entrance exam.

With just three days remaining until the exam, there is no sign of female students being permitted to participate, raising concerns among students.

Diba Anwari, a recent twelfth-grade graduate from Jawzjan province, passionately voiced her demand to the Taliban.

“We urge the authorities to promptly organize an entrance exam for girls. This year’s exam is exclusively for boys, and we are deeply troubled by this development,” she said.

The Taliban justified their decision by citing inadequate compliance with Sharia law within the universities and the co-education of male and female students. However, many argue that such a move is unjust, as education is a fundamental right for all segments of society, and depriving half of the population of education would hinder societal progress.

Nazita Faragh, another twelfth-grade graduate, expressed her discontent and said, “This decision is unfair, for education should be accessible to all.”

“Without education, half of society will remain stagnant,” she said.

The closure of schools for the past two years has prevented girls from graduating, leading to their exclusion from university admissions regardless of their academic achievements.

Farida, a twelfth-grade graduate from Takhar, shared her disappointment: “As a citizen of this country, I had aspirations of pursuing higher education to contribute to society. Sadly, these dreams have been snatched away from us.”

Zahra, Farida’s classmate, also spoke of the discouragement faced from family and relatives: “At home, people ask me why I bother studying when the government won’t allow us to take exams.”

In December 2022, the Taliban’s Ministry of Higher Education issued an order to close university doors to women and girls, following their previous restrictions on girls above the sixth grade attending school.

The Taliban’s ongoing limitations on women, particularly regarding education, have consistently elicited strong domestic and international condemnation. However, rather than easing these restrictions, the Taliban’s policies have only intensified, further obstructing the path to progress.

The recent ban imposed by the Taliban on female students participating in the national university entrance exams, known as Kankor, marks another significant blow to education in Afghanistan.

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 represent an opportunity for female students to pursue higher education across various provinces in Afghanistan. However, toward the end of last year, the Taliban banned all female students from continuing their studies at universities, while girls’ schools have been closed for grades six and above.

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