Female students in Afghanistan have been barred from attending classes. Some people are now looking for new ways to learn

Female students in Afghanistan have been barred from attending classes. Some people are now looking for new ways to learn

Female students in Afghanistan have been barred from attending classes. Some people are now looking for new ways to learn ichhori.com

On the morning of Sunday, Aug. 15, there was an almost eerie silence in Kabul University's classroom. It was the first day of the school week, and the professor of financial management had just started addressing queries from the pupils. Then, with a look of frenzied dread in his eyes, a young guy burst through the doors.

"He informed us that the Taliban had taken control of Kabul." 'They're coming here,' he said. "Run!" exclaims Farah, a 24-year-old student, recalling the incident. "My hands and feet were shaking and I couldn't feel them," she recalls. Farah, like every other women TIME spoke to for this storey, requested anonymity out of concern for their safety. "We just stood there and started gathering our notebooks," says the narrator.

Farah had seen her alma mater for the last time. Thousands of Afghan girls and women have been locked out of their high schools and colleges in the two months after Afghanistan's government fell, amid the chaotic US pullout after 20 years of war. Their studies are ended, and their lives and futures are in limbo. 

When the Taliban took over this time, Roxana, 18, had recently graduated from high school. She was scheduled to pick up her high school transcript from a government agency on August 15, which she needed in order to apply for scholarships to American institutions. Then she observed others fleeing in terror, yelling at her to return inside. Roxana says she's having trouble reconciling her dreams with Afghanistan's new reality. "Everything I imagined while I was in school came crashing down," she adds.

Where there is a will , there is a way -

These women started to look for remote opportunities -

Hundreds of female students have rushed to register for a remote learning programme launched by a California-based nonprofit online university in recent weeks, entering a new programme that begins November 1 and is geared specifically for women who have been barred from attending in-person classes in Kabul by the Taliban. 

Shai Reshef, the founder and president of University of the People, began thinking about the imminent challenges Afghan women faced after the tumultuous US exit in August. He informed me, "We're scared they won't be permitted to study." Around 100,000 students worldwide, including many in the United States, attend University of the People, which offers US-accredited degrees. So, a week after the Taliban took control, Reshef announced 1,000 scholarships for Afghan women, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Clinton Foundation, and the Ford Foundation, among others. Around twice as many women applied, and Reshef has since raised funding to keep up with the demand. "They may study at home with us," he explains, "and no one needs to know."

Studying Secretly 

TIME met with five women who were accepted but are either hiding or keeping their studies hidden. Nasrin, a 21-year-old Kabul University student, escaped the university on Aug. 15 as the Taliban took control of the capital and spent four hours trekking back to her home amid the chaos. When she returned home, she learned that some of her long-time neighbours were celebrating the Taliban's win, whose members had earlier threatened to kill her father. She and her parents and five younger siblings fled the city early the next morning for a neighbouring town, where they are now hiding.

Nasrin claims that her new scholarship, which starts in November, has saved her from despair. Despite the expensive Internet expenses and intermittent connectivity, she says she is committed to studying, partially as a means of mental stability. "They [Taliban] strike women with sticks if they go outside without a hijab," she said.

While some students will have to keep their studies hidden for fear of the Taliban shutting down remote learning for women, there are also less political obstacles to face, such as frequent power outages and expensive, slow Internet connections. "It will undoubtedly be challenging and difficult for me," says Farah, who escaped her financial-management class the morning the Taliban took Kabul; she now hopes to study commerce at the University of the People. "The connection is so difficult, and the cost is so exorbitant," she says after a lengthy session in which we exchanged audio messages rather than speaking directly via an unreliable Internet connection.

She claims the couple would struggle to afford increased Internet charges now that her husband is unemployed; she plans to study at night after putting her daughter to bed. She says, "I have to follow through with my dream." "I was making plans for my future." That's something I'd like to accomplish."

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