Students across Afghanistan have started returning to college for the primary time since the Taliban stormed to power, and in some cases females are separated from their male peers by curtains or boards down the center of the classroom.

What happens in universities and schools across the country is being closely watched by foreign powers, who want the group to respect the rights of girls reciprocally for vital aid and diplomatic engagement.

When it last ruled from 1996-2001, the group banned girls from school and ladies from university and work.

Despite assurances in recent weeks that women’s rights would be honoured in accordance with shariah , it’s unclear what which will mean in practice.

Teachers and students at universities in Afghanistan’s largest cities — Kabul, Kandahar and Herat — told Reuters that female students were being segregated in school , taught separately or restricted to certain parts of the campus.

“Putting up curtains isn’t acceptable,” Anjila, a 21-year-old student at Kabul University who returned to seek out her classroom partitioned, told Reuters by telephone.

“I really felt terrible once I entered the category […] We are gradually going back to twenty years ago.”

Even before the Taliban took over Afghanistan, Anjila said female students sat separately from males. But classrooms weren’t physically divided.

A document outlining guidelines for resuming class circulated by an association of personal universities in Afghanistan listed measures like the mandatory wearing of hijabs and separate entrances for female students.

It also said female teachers should be hired to show female students, which females should be taught separately or, in smaller classes, segregated by a curtain.

It was unclear if the document, seen by Reuters, represented official Taliban policy.

The group’s spokesperson didn’t immediately discuss the document, on photographs of divided classrooms or on how universities would be run.

The Taliban said last week that schooling should resume but that males and females should be separated.

A senior Taliban official told Reuters that classroom dividers like curtains were “completely acceptable”, which given Afghanistan’s “limited resources and manpower” it had been best to “have an equivalent teacher teaching each side of a class”.

‘Keep studying’
Photographs shared by Avicenna University in Kabul, and widely circulated on social media, show a gray curtain running down the centre of the classroom, with female students wearing long robes and head coverings but their faces visible.

Several teachers said there was uncertainty over what rules would be imposed under the Taliban, who have yet to make a government quite three weeks after they seized Kabul with barely an attempt fired in anger.

Their return to power has alarmed some women, who fear they’re going to lose the rights they fought for within the last 20 years , within the face of resistance from many families and officials within the deeply conservative Muslim country.

A journalism professor at Herat University within the west of the country told Reuters he decided to separate his one-hour class into two halves, first teaching females then males.

Of 120 students enrolled for his course, but 1 / 4 showed up at college on Monday. variety of scholars and teachers have fled the country, and therefore the fate of the country’s thriving private media sector has suddenly been thrown into doubt.

“Students were very nervous today,” he said. “I told them to only keep coming and keep studying and within the coming days the new government will set the principles .”

Sher Azam, a 37-year-old teacher at a personal university in Kabul, said his institute had given teachers the choice of holding separate classes for men and ladies , or partitioning classrooms with curtains and boards.

But he was worried about what percentage students would come , given the depression the Taliban’s victory has triggered.

“I do not know what percentage students will return to high school , because there are financial problems and a few students are coming from families who have lost their jobs.”

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