Credit: photo Rahmatullah Alizadah / Xinhua / ISOPIX.be
Credit: photo Rahmatullah Alizadah / Xinhua / ISOPIX.be

Afghanistan: As the Taliban regime undermines education, peace and human rights, Education International and its member organisations step up their actions

published 25 May 2022 updated 23 February 2024

Education International’s Afghanistan Teachers’ Rights Observatory (ATRO), to be launched in September 2022, is the latest in a series of strong actions undertaken demonstrating the global education community’s solidarity with Afghan educators and populations, who are undergoing great hardship under the rule of the Taliban.

ATRO, a monitoring and advocacy tool

In April 2022, Education International and the National Teacher Elected Council (NTEC) agreed on the creation of ATRO, whose aims and objectives are to:

  • Monitor, document, assess and report on the situation on the ground in Afghanistan, including: Payment or non-payment of teachers’ salaries and working conditions ; Human, labour and trade union rights’ violations, with particular focus on gender equity ; Girls access to education ; Restrictions on women teachers – including on dress code and where they can or cannot teach ; The safety and psycho-social well-being of women teachers ; Curriculum adherence to meeting SDG standards (inclusive, evidence based)
  • Empower, support and build capacity of NTEC
  • Elevate the voice of Afghan teachers by collecting and sharing stories and testimonies of teachers in partnership with NTEC
  • Use evidence gathered for advocacy at national and global level

ATRO expected outcomes are as follows:

  • Increased advocacy for teachers’ rights, students’ rights (particularly girls) labour and human rights, both domestically and internationally
  • Increased influence, visibility and status for NTEC domestically with increase in membership coverage across the education workforce
  • Publication of a bi-annual monitoring report
  • Production and dissemination of bi-monthly bulletins
  • Compilation of a disaggregated database of rights’ violations, including on: Educational rights– access, gender equity, pedagogy and the curriculum ; Human rights, with specific focus on gender equity ; Labour rights

The operationalising and implementation at national level will be carried out by NTEC.

International solidarity movement for Afghan educators and unionists

ATRO comes after a number of other initiatives undertaken by Education International and member organisations who stepped up their assistance to Afghan educators and unionists after the Taliban’s return to power.

On 2 May, Education International and two of its French affiliates, the Syndicat général de l'Éducation nationale-CFDT Travail (SGEN-CFDT) and the Fédération de la Formation et de l'Enseignement privés-CFDT (FEP-CFDT), attended the international trade union conference on human rights in Afghanistan organised by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and three French trade union confederations, the Confédération française et démocratique du Travail (CFDT), the Confédération générale du Travail (CGT) and Force Ouvrière (FO).

Education International took stock of the catastrophic situation regarding democracy and education in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. It also reiterated its commitment to, and solidarity with, Afghan trade unionists who, despite being exiled in France, are still fighting for a better future for their country.

Education International welcomed the intense work that has already been done in conjunction with the ITUC on Afghanistan and saluted the valuable work carried out for months by the French confederations, with the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, to evacuate trade union activists and their relatives from the country.

Education International’s urgent action appeal

On 14 December 2021, Education International had already sent out an urgent action appeal regarding “the critical situation that has been unfolding in Afghanistan” and asking for affiliates’ solidarity to:

1) Support Education International’s Afghan members who are undergoing great hardship;

2) Support the rescue and resettlement efforts of teacher trade union activists from Afghan member organisations who are under threat; and

3) Pressure their governments to both support relocation efforts and to ensure that humanitarian aid includes education and the rights of women and girls.

Education International further noted that “the Taliban, which seized power earlier this year, is reversing decades of educational and human rights’ progress and targeting schools and educational institutions to hinder girls' education and erase women’s participation. From 1996 to 2001 it barred girls and women from almost all work, the right to vote and to access education. […] Despite recent assurances from the Taliban, EI member organisations in Afghanistan are reporting that the situation is getting worse for women teachers and students, especially girls.”

“Schools should never be targets of terrorism or violence”

The Education International’s Executive Board, meeting on 2nd December 2021, also adopted a resolution reiterating in particular that “schools should never be targets of terrorism or violence” and “education is a fundamental human right and adherence to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is fundamental to promoting inclusive, non-discriminatory, and peaceful societies”.