Is it time to change school uniform for girls in Afghanistan ?

Afghan school girls in Uniform - 2014
(Afghan school girls in Uniform – 2014)

School girls in Afghanistan have complained about the colour of their school uniforms. They are asking the government and schools to change the typical, black dress and white scarf to a colour that does not absorb the heat and is less depressing.

During the 1970’s, women and girls in Afghanistan attired themselves in Western clothing. This meant mini-skirts, no headscarves and stunning hair styles. Girls who attended schools and universities dressed in modern clothing including high heels, all of which was banned during the rule of the Taliban.

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(Afghan school girls- 1970)

After many years of no education for girls, Afghanistan now has thousands of girls attending schools. Education in Afghanistan includes K-12 and higher education. Currently Afghanistan is in the process of rebuilding. Despite the challenges faced by Afghans daily, the country is still moving forward and working towards a brighter and a better tomorrow.

The numbers of schools are increasing fast in Afghanistan. Since the fall of the Taliban in the year 2001, By 2006, more than 4 million public schools such as; Habibia High School, one of the oldest schools in Afghanistan, Amani High School and Lycee Esteqlal have been opened.

Private schools in Afghanistan have uniform like schools in England, including blazers, jeans, skirts, shirts and ties for both girls and boys as part of uniform. But for public schools it is different. It is required of all the girls to wear a black, long, shapeless dress and a white head scarf.

It has been reported that some girls have fainted in classes because of the heat absorbed by their uniforms. Many have complained that not only are the uniforms head absorbing but that they are also hideous.

A 16-year-old girl, Marjan says her black school uniform makes the heat of the Kabul summer unbearable. She said, “The education minister is sitting in an air conditioned office. What does he know about the conditions we’re in, or how hot these black clothes get?”

A seventh-grade pupil from the Ariana High School said. “Believe me, we see girls fainting every day in the summer. The sole reason is that black makes your body temperature rise uncontrollably.”

The colours black and light green were traditionally the main options for schoolgirls, but now the former is usually required. The choice to have black as uniform also seems to be influenced by perceptions of modesty.

Abdol Monir Negah, who is the education ministry’s academic council, said, “First, schoolgirls must be distinguishable from others. Secondly, black conceals the beauty and features of girls and women from the eyes of men. They don’t attract attention.”

School teachers have agreed to the change in uniforms. Shirin, who has been a teacher for 12 years and works for Alem Faizzada High School, said blue or grey would make a far better choice. She said, “I was a pupil myself once. I’ve been through the same experience. I know how badly wearing black affects the pupils both physically and psychologically.”

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Farkhunda: the woman who stood for the truth

Farkhunda, a young woman, one of the victims of yet another unjust killing, was beaten by a mob on March 19, 2015 in the streets of Kabul.

This was by far one of the worst kinds of deaths faced since the rule of the Taliban. But this time it was not the Taliban who killed the young woman, it was the men in the streets of Kabul. They were not linked to any extremist groups. This raises concerns, is Afghanistan corrupted by their own people? Will women ever be in safe hands in Afghanistan?

Despite of improvements of security, Farkhunda was beaten and set on fire by a mob of men in the capital of Afghanistan, Kabul. She was accused of burning the Quran but according to Afghanistan’s interior minister, Farkhunda was innocent.

Minister, Noorulhaq Ulumi, said “The accusation against her is completely invalid. Farkhunda was a religious girl, she was not involved [in burning the Koran], she was innocent.”

Farkhunda allegedly had an argument with one of the Mullahs about his practice of selling charms at the mosque of Shah-Do Shamshira. He then accused her of burning the Quran.

Police investigations revealed that she did not burn the Quran. She was beaten by a mob, thrown over the bridge and then had her body set on fire and thrown in the river.

According to sources, the crowd were chanting anti-American and anti-democratic slogans while beating Farkhunda. Videos show that police were present during the incident, but they did not take any action to end the violence.

The father of Farkhunda complained about the lack of police efforts to save her. Ashraf Ghani, the president of Afghanistan described the killing as “heinous” and ordered a commission to investigate the killing. He said the death of Farkhunda has exposed that Afghan police need to start focusing on local policing as much as on the Taliban insurgency.

Islamic scholars in Afghanistan expressed their outrage over the incident and described it as unlawful. A local cleric, Haji Noor Ahmad said, “People come and execute a person arbitrarily, this is totally prohibited and unlawful.” However some Islamic Scholars justified the killing, which angered the public.

Protests took place in Afghanistan and around other parts of the World too such as, London, Australia, Canada and America. Afghans gathered in crowds asking for justice.

Women in Afghanistan protested, demanding the government to prosecute those who took part in the killings of Farkhunda. The funeral of Farkhunda involved more women than men. Men were not allowed to take part in Farkhundas funeral as they were the reason for her death.

Images of the protest in London, Trafalgar Square