Photo Essay: The Afghan Mother Singing Her Way Back to School — By Tahmina Saleem on News Deeply com-women and girls

Humaira Sabawoon was already breaking the rules of Afghan society when she decided to enrol at university as a mature student. But by studying music, Humaira Sabawoon also took on a taboo left behind by the Taliban.

Sabawoon is one of only two mature students enrolled in Kabul University’s arts department. The other is a man studying painting. (Tahmina Saleem)

MORE THAN 30 years of conflict have taken their toll on Afghanistan’s education system, making it difficult for children – and girls in particular – to attend school. Prior to the fall of the Taliban in 2001, it’s estimated that fewer than 1 million students attended school, and less than 40 percent were girls.

There has been substantial progress since, and today it is common for women living in the cities to pursue higher education. It is more difficult for women in the remote provinces – especially where there is still a Taliban presence, or where the group’s influence remains strong.

Statistics from the U.S. Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) show the total number of women enrolling in higher education in Afghanistan grew to more than 45,000 in 2016, comprising 22.8 percent of the total student population. The education ministry is aiming to bring that up to 25 percent by 2020.

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