Against the odds: these Afghan bikers are promoting girls’ education

Against the odds: these Afghan bikers are promoting girls’ education

It was a chilly Friday afternoon when an extended roar of more than two dozen motorbikes pierced the silence in the Spin Boldak district of Kandahar province.

To an outsider, the sudden invasion earlier this month by a large group of men on bikes could be cause for alarm, but for the residents of the small southern villages in the historical region of Afghanistan it was a welcome sound.

Children flocked to the streets and excitedly chased the bikes. The men – activists with an Afghan NGO called Pen Path – were known to the children as “brothers who bring them books”.

On this day, however, the convoy was also carrying placards with messages promoting girls’ education in Afghanistan, an issue that has been of growing concern since the Taliban seized control of the country on August 15.

The insurgent group, known for its extremist views particularly related to women’s freedom, has failed to reopen the majority of high schools for girls in the country.

“After Taliban suspended grade 7 to 12 education for girls, we started this campaign, involving scholars, educators, men and women, to request the Taliban to restart girls school. We want to emphasise that education is our Islamic and basic right,” said Matiullah Wesa, the Afghan education activist behind Pen Path.

Mr Wesa, who started Pen Path 12 years ago because many districts near his hometown in Spin Boldak were without school facilities, said he hasn’t heard back from the Taliban, but remains hopeful.

“We will continue this campaign because this is one issue we can’t remain silent on; girls’ education is our red line,” he said.

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