UNICEF closes 1,500 mobile classrooms in Kandahar five days after Taliban bans women from NGOs 

By Sana Atif 

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Kandahar has temporarily stopped the activities of nearly 1,600 local mobile classrooms in Kandahar province on Thursday, December 29, several local workers tell Zan Times. The closures occurred five days after the Taliban prohibited women from working with local and foreign non-governmental organizations on December 24.  

“After the Taliban forbade women from working in NGOs, UNICEF was forced to stop the activities of these classes, because most of the teachers of these classes were women,” a local UNICEF employee in Kandahar tells Zan Times. No official announcement has been made publicly, says the employee, who adds that the decision will deprive 50,000 boys and girls of primary education and cause about 1,600 teachers to close their jobs. 

One of the teachers in a UNICEF mobile class in Kandahar city says, “Most of my students were poor children and street workers who could not study in public schools due to economic problems. Now all these children have been deprived of education again.” 

According to its November report, UNICEF operated nearly 15,000 local community-based classes in 17 provinces of the country, which provide primary education, from first to third grade, to more than 520,000 children, 57 percent of whom were girls.  

The decision by UNICEF to close classrooms in Kandahar comes a day after the UN announced that some UN activities would be temporarily suspended due to the Taliban’s ban on women’s work in NGOs. “The UN Inter-Agency Standing Committee has noted that while agencies will endeavour to continue to deliver time-critical life-saving aid, many activities will be paused as they cannot deliver principled humanitarian assistance without female aid workers,” explained the UN. Martin Griffiths, UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, is expected to visit Afghanistan to discuss the impact of the decision on aid organizations with the Taliban, Reuters reports.  

To date, at least five international relief organizations, including the International Rescue Committee, the Child Protection Organization, the Norwegian Refugee Council, have temporarily stopped their activities in Afghanistan. These organizations have said that they would not be able to provide services in the absence of women aid workers. 

The suspension of more and more aid programs means millions of Afghans are denied access to their vital humanitarian services: at least two-thirds of the country’s population needs such aid to survive while the UN estimates that 20 million face acute hunger, many of them children.  

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