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

In their own words: the harsh reality of Afghan teachers

published 29 January 2024 updated 11 March 2024

Shakila* is a dedicated teacher with over 15 years of service in the Balkh Province of Afghanistan. Since the most recent takeover of the Taliban in 2021 which led to the shutdown of education for girls, attacks on female teachers, and a crackdown on the rights of women, Shakila reports feeling a profound sadness caused by living in an unsafe environment. Beyond her personal hardships, the closure of schools for her daughters and female students adds a strong sense of injustice. Partial and irregular salary payments for teachers exacerbate the already difficult conditions the education sector faces. Despite the challenges, Shakila remains passionately committed to advocating for academic freedom, emphasizing the need for an equitable educational environment.

The testimony of Shakila is part of an initiative from the Afghan Teacher's Rights Observatory, by which Education International is collecting the experiences from firsthand accounts by teachers in Afghanistan. In the voice of over 2,000 Afghan teachers, their narratives shed light on the adversity the sector faces. The testimonies reflect the struggles of individuals committed to shaping the future of their country through education, despite the challenges they face.

“These testimonies provide a glimpse into the harsh realities faced by Afghan teachers. Their narratives echo the urgent need for systemic change, emphasizing the fundamental right to education for all, better working conditions, and the essential role of unions in shaping a more just and supportive educational system. The voices of these educators call for collective action to address the challenges that persist in Afghan classrooms”, stated David Edwards, Education International General Secretary.

Hasina*, a female teacher in a boys’ school in the Badakhashan Province compared the harsh treatment of female teachers, as if they were pawns in a game played by others. The unpredictable nature of assignments, salary cuts, and the confidential status of girls' education weigh heavily on their collective frustration. Hasina's testimony underscores the urgency of addressing the well-being of educators.

Mawlana*, a male teacher, navigates economic challenges in Samangan. His story emphasizes the importance of unions in defending teachers' rights. Despite an insufficient salary and challenging working conditions, Mawlana envisions a future where unions play a pivotal role in negotiating better conditions for all educators.

Hakimi* is a seasoned female teacher in Kabul. She laments the closure of girls' schools and societies disrespect towards educators. Advocating for safety in education and regular wages, Hakimi highlights the need for increased recognition of the teaching profession.

Abdul* in the Balkh province explained that he faces disrespect, an inadequate salary, and the constant fear of contract termination. His plea for benefits, including shopping discounts and insurance protection, underscores the broader struggle for a decent life and recognition of the essential role teachers play. Despite these conditions he says he is proud of his sacred duty as a teacher.

Sherin*, a female teacher for seven years, shared the challenges faced by female teachers with the closure of girls' schools and relocations. Extended class hours and reduced incomes add to the deterioration of working conditions for educators.

* The names of the teachers who shared these testimonies were changed for safety reasons.