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Afghan Women Defy Taleban Ban on Education By Studying in Pakistan - 2001-11-01


In the backyard of a converted house on the outskirts of Peshawar, Pakistan, something unusual is taking place. Young Afghan women are going to school.

The Afghan women's council school was started in 1993. When the Taleban banned education for women in Afghanistan, the school's mission took on new meaning.

Fawzia Habibi is the school's director. She said that when an acceptable government is formed in Afghanistan, she hopes it will restore the rights and privileges of women. Women are more than half the population in Afghanistan and educated women will be needed for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

The school started with 350 students. Now there are 2,500 in grades three through nine. All the students are in pakistan as refugees.

Miriam is 14. She says she left Kabul with her family in early October. She said there was panic in Kabul over the U.S. bombing attacks. And, when she became ill, her father decided to leave Kabul for Pakistan. They walked for two days through treacherous mountain passes with no food or water.

Tuition is the equivalent of $1 per month for each student.

There are 600 students like 12-year-old Mocadolasa, who are orphaned. They study for free.

When asked what she thought of the Taleban, she answered with a maturity beyond her years.

She said she wouldn't say whether the Taleban are good or bad. She disagrees with their decision not to allow women to become doctors, engineers and teachers. "I question them when their mother's and wives become ill," she said. "Who will treat them if they don't allow them to become doctors?"

The school has an unusually broad curriculum, offering courses in everything from physics and biology to languages, the arts and Islamic studies. Walking through the school, you can see the faces of children who were eager to learn and hungry for a better life.

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