The World Cup’s education goal

20-11-2022 09:31 AM
Gordon Brown and Yasmine Sherif

All who are travelling to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and harbour concerns about human rights should come together to protest one especially urgent and heinous recent abuse: the Taliban regime’s prohibition barring Afghan girls from attending school. Anger about the ban is strongly felt in Qatar, other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states, and other Middle Eastern and predominantly Muslim countries that wield influence over the Taliban. The entire global development community therefore can unite around the shared objective of asking the Taliban to honour its earlier promise to respect girls’ right to education.

Unity on this issue is possible, because the Muslim world outside Afghanistan supports mainstream Islamic teaching that welcomes and encourages girls’ education. “Iqra,” meaning to read, is the first word of the Koran. “The seeking of knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim,” states Al Tirmidhi, Hadith 74, one of the six canonical teachings in Sunni Islam. This deep commitment to learning – by men and women – explains why the United Arab Emirates has been so outspoken in support of girls’ education at the United Nations, and why Qatar’s leaders have been recognised internationally for making the case for education as intermediaries between the West and the Taliban.

Moreover, every country has committed to the fourth UN Sustainable Development Goal: that every child be ensured access to “inclusive and equitable quality education” by the end of this decade. Owing to its own strong commitment to provide education to all girls, women’s university enrollment in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, has increased from 2 per cent in 1970 to 39 per cent in 2018. And in Saudi Arabia, half of university-age women attend university – a higher female enrollment rate than in Mexico, China, Brazil, and India.

The case for reversing the school ban becomes even stronger when one recalls that Afghanistan itself has enjoyed long periods when girls’ education flourished. Before the Taliban’s 1996 takeover, 60 per cent of Kabul University teachers (and half its students) were women, and Afghan women constituted 70 per cent of the country’s schoolteachers, 50 per cent of civilian government workers (and 70 per cent of the 130,000 civil servants in Kabul), and 40 per cent of doctors. In this century alone – up until a year ago – the number of Afghan girls enrolled in school increased from just 100,000 in 2000 to more than 3.5 million, and female literacy doubled.

The UN’s Education Cannot Wait fund (which I chair) has invested more than $58 million in education in Afghanistan since 2017, initially through emergency provisions for displaced students, and more recently (until last year) through a multiyear resilience programme that was launched in 2019. Owing to the dedicated work of our partners – led by UNICEF and various NGOs – this funding ultimately reached 51 per cent of Afghanistan’s young female students. The plan now is to launch a new multiyear program to increase girls’ and boys’ access to community-based education, even in the most remote and challenging areas.

That is why the international community must now plead in unison with the Taliban spiritual leader, HaibatullahAkhundzada, to amend his rulings, which have extended beyond the ban on girls’ school attendance to prohibit them from public spaces such as parks, gyms and the country’s popular public fairs. The regime has also stepped up sanctions against women traveling without a male relative. And thousands of female government workers have been told to stay at home, and have therefore lost their jobs.

Gordon Brown, a former prime minister and chancellor of the exchequer of the United Kingdom, is United Nations special envoy for Global Education, chair of Education Cannot Wait’s High-Level Steering Group, and chair of the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity.YasmineSherif is director of Education Cannot Wait Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2022.

  • no comments

All comments are reviewed and posted only if approved.
Ammon News reserves the right to delete any comment at any time, and for any reason, and will not publish any comment containing offense or deviating from the subject at hand, or to include the names of any personalities or to stir up sectarian, sectarian or racial strife, hoping to adhere to a high level of the comments as they express The extent of the progress and culture of Ammon News' visitors, noting that the comments are expressed only by the owners.
name : *
show email
comment : *
Verification code : Refresh
write code :