The role of women in Afghanistan has been debatable ever since the nation was established. Over the years, rulers that have come to power in the country implemented what they believed was right, more often than not contradicting what the predecessor achieved. The Islamic religion mostly practiced in the state provides for equal rights to women just as their male counterparts (BBC News 2014; Noury and Speciale 2016, p.827).
From 1901, under the leadership of King Amir Habibullah Khan, conservative Afghanistan experienced modernisation. Amir policies allowed female civilisation is marking the opening of schools that permitted women education as well as western clothing (Adkins 2016, p.106; Ahmed-Ghosh 2013, p.7; BBC News 2014). These developments were entirely against what traditional Afghanistan accepted, therefore vehemently opposed by the tribal leaders. Additionally, women were to be veiled, while education was forbidden. Even after his assassination, King Amanullah, son of Amir, and his wife Queen Soraya took the throne and continued women sanitisation encouraging their schooling and choosing what to wear. Queen Soraya’s efforts resulted in the creation of the first female magazine and protection association (Smith et. al. 2013, p.560).
Over the years conflict between modernists and tribal leaders escalated, but Amanullah continued to introduce more reforms. He has further abolished polygamy and raised the marriage age to 18. However, the king was forced to bow increasing pressure and protests by the tribal leaders (Mashal et al. 2013, p.305; Morley 2013, p.120). New reforms were introduced, making veil mandatory among women, and once again, girls were abolished from schools and were not even allowed to cut their hair. Despite these changes, in 1929, the king was induced to vacate his throne, and ever since, no monarch could replace him to enforce any reforms for women (Alvi-Aziz 2013, p.172).
The association between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union in 1964 resulted in another uprising of freedom for women. Females were regarded to play a critical role in building the country’s economy (Cox 2016, p.79). Therefore, they were provided with education in the universities and allowed to work in the government institutions. The next decade resulted in the full exploitation of female rights; over 50% of the working population in Afghanistan was women involved in different levels of government (Jamal 2015, p.277). However, these rights quickly eroded, when the country exited the Soviet Union in 1989.
The period between 1996 and 2001 marked the Taliban rule in Afghanistan where they implemented strict practices across the nation. Women were adversely affected by the Sharia laws, as introduced by the Taliban, which prohibited females from working, being in public without a close relative, or attend public gatherings, and for another time, women education was abolished (Feuer, Towne and Shavelson 2014, p.11).
Women Education in Post-Taliban Afghanistan
The country has made several strides over the time in making improvements towards the education sector since the ousting of the Taliban by the U.S forces in 2001 (LeVine and White 2017, p.41). For example, there are over 175 programs being implanted that are impacting women directly. Moreover, the Constitution also reserves 25 seats to ensure females are involved in the country’s political activities (Chen and Uttal 2014, p.353). Although women regained most of their rights, they are rarely enjoyed by those living out the capital Kabul, since government agents are made of warlords some of whom share the ideologies of the Taliban and hence do not support female agenda. However, the establishment of the education system is regarded as one of the most significant Afghanistan successes after overthrowing of the Taliban. According to the World Bank report (2012), no girl attended a formal school in the nation. However, by 2012, a total population of 7.8 million students had been registered in classes including 2.9 million girls.
Girl children in Afghanistan still struggle to have access to education; from the statistics estimates, the youth population is primarily constituted by girls (Cornwall and Rivas 2015, p.401). However, not even half of their community is in school considering that programs to have females in formal education are facing difficulties in implementation outside the capital. Additionally, the Afghanistan education system does not have adequate resources to ensure smooth learning processes and protect women who are always under threat of attack from those opposing new reforms (Smith et. al. 2013, p.565). For example, most schools are operating under trees, tents, houses, and are characterized with lack of adequate teachers and high rate of girls’ dropout. Therefore, access to education for female children will depend on security measures taken by the new government to protect them while in school considering the high number of girls willing to acquire education.
Cultural Influence on Education
According to Hofstede, culture can be defined as a collective mindset among a particular group of people distinguishing members from others (Colleran et al. 2014, p.3). He further eluded culture influence on education; other organisations can be understood by grouping it into different dimensions (Colleran et al. 2014, p.3):
Individualism v. collectivism
Individualistic cultures are expressed in rich western countries where the majority is concerned with those of their immediate families; at the same time, in collectivistic cultures like nations of Africa and Asia, people belong to groups often offering favours for loyalty (Devlin 2013, p.941). These cultures impact the learning process in a different way. Collectivist students tend only to speak when called upon by the teacher but are very active in the small groups’ participation, while individualist students will likely speak when replying a general teacher’s invitation and are inclined to speaking to the large groups (Biesta 2015, p.674).
Femininity v masculinity
Feminine cultures seek consensus between understanding and quality of life, while for masculine cultures like UK, US, and Germany, individual achievements are considered most important (Hayhoe and Bastid 2017, p.33). In education, masculine cultures reward student academic performance and focus on a career when choosing subjects, while feminine students are rewarded for their social adaptability and interest.
This element refers to the extent of a society’s preparation and alignment to the future perspectives of the country. Nations that are under monotheistic religions like Islamic or Christianity believe in indivisible truth, while other states like China and Taiwan are certain situation and context will determine truth over the time (Gaddis 2013, p.7; Moran, Abramson, and Moran 2014, p.52). In countries that score low on long-term orientation, students focus on finding the ultimate solution and ask ‘why’, while in other nations like China, learners tend to believe there is a possibility of many truths and instead ask ‘how’.
Socioeconomic Influence on Education
Socioeconomic status refers to financial security of educational attainment and can be expanded to include privileges and opportunities accorded to the people within the society (Gay 2013, p.50). A low-income correlates to poverty, lower educational attainment, and poor health. Global disparities in the distribution of resources affect every society. There is a general inability to achieve equal educational access globally (Bellini et al. 2013, p.132). The various socioeconomic factors affecting education include the following.
Countries gross domestic products
A child’s education can be influenced or hindered by the family’s financial status. Well developed countries with higher GDP such as UK, US, and Germany invest a lot of resources to the educational setting. Although wealthy families exploit their funds to send their children to high-quality establishments, the majority have access to public schools that are far more developed and resourceful than in most emerging countries (Marcellino 2015, p.62; Marsh 2016, p.265). Additionally, some individuals in developing nations are not able to attend schools or are forced to cut their education time to look for part-time jobs as a sustainability measure.
Countries educational levels
Parents’ educational level influences the level of importance and their children view about education. Developed nations with a higher level of scholars tend to assess the country’s academic performance about the state’s needs (Tarhini, Hone and Liu 2015, p.742). This strategy helps in the formulation and implementation of policies to improve the overall academic performance. Most Asian and African countries are still operating in education systems implemented by their colonial masters (Sattler et al. 2012, p.94). They do not focus on the countries’ current needs. As a result, they struggle with development and exploitation of their resources (Tumuheki, Zeelen and Openjuru 2016, p.57).
Preferential treatment of particular sex compared to the other amount of gender discrimination (De Paola and Scoppa 2015, p.178; Weston et al. 2015, p.210). This phenomenon is a unique issue affecting different societies globally. However, most studies continue to focus on the emerging counties despite increasing cases of this inequality in advanced states (Jennifer n.d.; Otiniano Verissimo 2014, p.46). Several organizations and governments attention is aimed towards solving this menace in developing as opposed to developed countries. Moreover, there is a general focus on girl children as the most affected, when in some cases, boy children are impacted as well.
In different countries, gender is used as basis for denying most kids access to education. Although there are advancements in ensuring girls have access to knowledge, a large number of young women have been left out (Newman 2014, p.27; Shayan 2015, p.279). In developing states, families are forced to choose between their children on who can go study which is much influenced by the gender role. Most of them resort to sending boys to school citing their future role in leading the homestead, while girls, on the other hand, are seen as family property often married off in exchange for dowry (Purewal and Hashmi 2015, p.984; Khoja-Moolji 2014, p.113). However, in some cases, poverty, income, and the level of parents’ education become an essential factor in allowing children to go to school.
A full spread belief of girls being less valuable in education is common in most African and Asian countries (Ahmad et al. 2014, p.342; Gorozidis and Papaioannou 2014, p.9). In traditional African set-up, females are supposed to help with household chores and look after the siblings. Once they reach their marriage age which, in most cases, is very young, they are married off for wealth (Shaukat and Pell 2017, p.197). In developed countries, most women lack access to education due to family income or being discriminated to ensure that men remain the heads, since they are considered the best in a particular field. Availability and dominance of males in specific and technical spheres like science have limited women from pursuing a career in such areas, since they are viewed as not equal to fulfill the task required (Beydoun et al. 2017, p.827; Coffman, Exley, and Niederle 2017). However, a few females who have chosen to venture into these fields continue to perform as well as their male counterparts.
Women’s general access to education in various parts of the world continues to be debatable. Due to ever-changing governments and policies across the globe, females are more encouraged to engage in studying. However, these plans will need a global effort for implementation considering insecurity threats in some nations that still see women as family and husband property.