40% of 6,500 students in Maarif schools are girls; families place importance on education of girls, says foundation head.
Girls in Afghanistan have started receiving their education at schools run by Turkey’s Maarif Foundation, according to the group’s chair.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, President of the foundation Birol Akgun said that there are no problems in the primary school education of girls in Afghanistan, adding that significant progress was made in secondary and high schools, and that in most Maarif schools, students have returned to class.
“Restrictions continue in the secondary and high school sections of our girls’ schools in the capital Kabul and Kandahar. We believe this will be overcome with time. Discussion of the issue continues through our embassy,” he said.
On recent political developments in the country, Akgun said that they took over the schools in Afghanistan with an interstate agreement signed between Turkey and Afghanistan some three years ago, and continue to operate schools by boosting their capacity and quality.
He stressed that since then, the number of students has increased and the foundation has opened new schools in order to meet demands in various cities.
“The Turkish Maarif Foundation has around 6,500 students and schools in 19 campuses at different levels … in various cities, such as Kabul, Herat, Jalalabad, Mazar-i Sharif, Kandahar, Maidan Wardak, Aqcha and Sheberghan. Some of these schools are separate schools for girls,” he said.
Acknowledging some uneasiness due to recent political developments in the country, after the Taliban swiftly took power this August, Akgun said with the support of Turkey’s Embassy in Kabul and related institutions, the schools continued operating continued “without any great loss.”
“As a result of negotiations, the new Afghan administration started to show a more flexible approach to continuing education for female students,” he said, referring to the interim Taliban administration.
Importance of educating girls
Akgun stressed that 40% of the 6,500 students enrolled in Maarif schools are girls.
“Families place importance on the education of girls. We have 14 schools in Afghanistan that we have opened exclusively for female students. Only some of our girls’ schools are waiting for permission from education officials,” he added.
He said female students in four schools have not started education yet, as restrictions on secondary and high school sections of Maarif girls’ schools in the capital and Kandahar continue.
Akgun said that besides those cases, all of the other Maarif schools remain open.
Source of hope
The quality of the education provided by Maarif schools, as well as the public trust in the schools, are the most important factors keeping the work going, he said.
“The Turkish Maarif Foundation keeps continuing the quality education efforts we have made all over the world for all sectors of the Afghan people in Afghanistan,” he explained.
“This is our common cultural and humanitarian duty. The continuation of educational activities in Afghanistan, which the whole world has abandoned, is a source of hope for everyone and is very important in this respect.”
Akgun asserted that education is among the “priority issues” in the country in the new era, and that efforts are being made in this context to solve any problems that come up.
“Schools have been opened throughout the country, but due to embargoes, economic difficulties disrupted education in some regions. We know that the UN and Turkey keep raising the issue in order to overcome these problems. In universities, education hasn’t started yet,” he said.
In 2016, in the wake of a defeated coup by the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), Turkey established the Maarif Foundation to assume the administration of schools overseas linked to FETO, which the terror group has used as a revenue stream.
Maarif has also established dozens of schools and education centers abroad.
*Writing by Jeyhun Aliyev from Ankara