In the past 20 years, there has been a significant increase in the number and quality of private educational institutions. However, the Taliban’s control of the nation and their restrictions on girls and women have caused these institutions, which have provided thousands of people with the opportunity to learn and become familiar with modern sciences, to collapse. According to the Union of Universities and Private Higher Education Institutions, more than 30 universities and private educational institutions will cease operations due to financial issues. However, some academics believe that the primary causes of the closure of private universities are the breakdown of the moral system and the lack of specialized subjects. They also point out that one of the challenges investors in the private higher education sector face is the Taliban’s interference in the curriculum, replacing unnecessary subjects.
Since the Taliban regained control, private universities in Afghanistan have been facing difficult conditions. Reports indicate that these educational institutions have been shut down due to the Taliban’s heavy involvement in all aspects of university operations, including a significant decrease in enrollment, especially after the prohibition of education for girls and women, and the Taliban’s biased views on the acceptance of modern science. In this report, we interviewed various university academics and representatives from private educational institutions, all of whom expressed their sorrow over the Taliban’s extreme views on universities’ curricula. Before this, Hasht-e-Subh had obtained a document that revealed the Taliban were revising the universities’ curriculum.
Afghanistan University recently published a notice announcing that it would be closing due to financial difficulties. On Wednesday, December 19, the private educational institution declared that it would be sold or, if not, would be suspending operations due to the economic issues caused by students dropping out and the restriction on girls’ education. The announcement stated that, beginning with the spring semester of 1402, Afghanistan University would no longer be open. However, the university has not specified how many students it has or what will happen to them after the closure.
The Union of Universities and Private Higher Education Institutions reported that more than 30 private colleges and universities in the country had closed due to financial issues. The union’s officials have stated that all private educational institutions will be shut down one by one if the Taliban does not alter its attitude towards the education of girls and women.
Students’ Response to the Closure of Private Universities
At the Hasht-e-Subh, several female students asserted that at least half of the students enrolled in private universities were female. Without these students, a considerable amount of the financial and intellectual resources of these institutions would have been lost, and they would eventually collapse one by one. Frishta Noori (a pseudonym), a student at Afghanistan University, expressed her disapproval of the institution’s closure. “We already have bad luck, and institutions that don’t care about students’ futures only make it worse. They operated when there was money, but now that times are tough, they choose to abandon everyone. What will become of the male students? What will become of the unfortunate girls? Boys have at least finished the third year at the university. I do not understand why investors never consider the future of people”.
This student emphasizes that private educational institutions should not only invest financially and provide economic benefits, but also have a moral and legal obligation to ensure the future of their students. Students feel that their well-being should be taken into account, as they have contributed to the success of these colleges through their attendance and financial contributions.
Geeti Sediqi is a third-year law and political science student at a private university in Kabul, though she is hesitant to reveal the name of the university as she hopes to continue her studies there without upsetting the administrators. She said, “It is clear that the Taliban’s takeover has destroyed not only our hopes and dreams, but also all of the progress and sacrifices made by the Afghan people over the past two decades. We cannot allow this to continue. Private educational institutions must make sacrifices, remain resilient, and keep the flame of progress alive.”
In an interview with Hasht-e-Subh, Ahmad Mobasher, a bachelor’s student at a private university, expressed his concern about the current state of the university. He said that the atmosphere is one of fear and lack of motivation, with both students and teachers feeling scared of each other. In the classroom, this has led to a stifling of free speech and thought, and the presence of Taliban undercover agents has made the situation even more tedious. He believes that if the university remains open, students will not be learning the skills and knowledge that are relevant to the modern world.
Many students and teachers at private colleges believe that the Taliban’s strict rules, lack of intellectual freedom, and addition of unnecessary subjects to the curriculum have sapped students’ motivation and optimism for the future.
Professors’ Response to the Closure of Private Universities
Shaker Hayat, who uses a pseudonym, teaches at multiple universities. In an interview with Hasht–e–Subh, he stated that the decline of the private education system in Afghanistan is mainly due to the lack of government policy towards universities, the decline of academic disciplines, and the widespread poverty.
Mr. Hayat believes that the lack of government support for universities has caused the creators of private universities to lose trust in the potential of their financial investments in this sector. He argues that government support is only possible when a legitimate government is in place and creates regulations that allow universities to operate autonomously and have faith in the future. He stated, “The Taliban Minister of Higher Education said that science is not acceptable to him, and people who built a bomb are many times more valuable to him than the professors.”
A university professor has stated that the main cause of the decline of universities is the lack of academic subjects, which he believes are essential for universities to cultivate talent, develop mindsets, and help students reach their objectives. He also noted that philosophy and some other legal topics are no longer taught in universities. According to him, the Taliban banned certain subjects due to the illegality of terrorist activities.
Mr. Hayat stresses that certain legal topics are no longer able to be taught due to the criminalization of terrorism related to them. As suicide, bombings, and other terrorist activities are considered illegal in these topics, no professor is allowed to teach them. Consequently, no instructor is able to give lectures on these topics as they are in opposition to terrorist criminals.
The professor at this university believes that economic inequality is a contributing factor to the downfall of private universities. He states that most Afghans live in poverty, making it difficult for them to pay the fees. Without payment, professors cannot teach, which prevents universities from staying open due to their inability to cover their costs. Mr. Hayat estimates that more than 35 private universities have already closed or are in the process of closing, and he predicts that 110 more will suffer economically in the future.
Baset Qanet, a university lecturer, believes that the “ethical system in universities“ has deteriorated significantly since the Taliban took control. He states that he could not bear it and left. Mr. Qanet is aware of several universities that have suspended their operations. He explains that when disciplines other than Sharia and religious sciences are no longer valued, the situation becomes dire. Additionally, Mr. Qanet claims that the restrictions on girls and women, who make up roughly half of the student body in private universities, is another reason for their financial failure. He states that the girls who are now isolated at home made up at least 40% of the student body at these universities, and that female teachers are no longer working, leading to the closure of private universities due to their inability to pay their bills.
Complaints are being made by private educational institutions due to the imposition of strict restrictions. Prior to this, the Taliban‘s Ministry of Public Prohibition announced that it would increase its oversight of private universities and institutions. On September 22, 2022, the ministry declared in a newsletter that private educational institutions must adhere to Sharia and Islamic principles, which caused outrage among university teachers and students who saw it as a direct interference in university matters that challenged the intellectual and professional autonomy of such institutions.
According to statistics from the former government‘s Ministry of Higher Education, there were 140 private higher education institutions operating in the country. However, the Union of Private Universities reported that more than 30 of these institutions have been banned. Private educational institutions have expressed dissatisfaction with their lack of funding, declining enrollment, and imposed limitations. Additionally, due to the Taliban‘s rule in Afghanistan, many academics and students have left the nation, and 6,000 employees of the institutions have been terminated or resigned, according to the Universities and Private Higher Educations Institution‘s Union.