Hundreds back to school in Afghanistan after Taliban fighters swap arms for books

In the past, Gul Agha Jalali would spend his nights detonating bombs in the hopes of hitting a soldier for the Afghan government or, even better, a foreign serviceman. The 23-year-old Taliban member is currently enrolled in a computer science course and is learning English in Kabul, the country’s capital.

“We needed bombs, mortars, and firearms while infidels were occupying our country,” claims Jalali, a worker at the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation.

He informed the reporters that education is now more important than ever.

Hundreds of warriors have returned to school since the Taliban surged back into power in August of last year, either on their own initiative or under pressure from their superiors.

The name of the extreme Islamist movement, “Taliban,” which derives from the religious schools in southern Afghanistan where it first appeared in the 1990s, really means “students” in Arabic.

These madrassas, where the Koran and other Islamic subjects are primarily studied, are where the majority of Taliban warriors received their education.

A large number of orthodox Afghan clerics, especially those associated with the Taliban, are skeptical of contemporary education outside of fields that may be applied practically, like engineering or medicine.

Jalali, who for five years planted bombs, stated, “The world is growing, we need technology and development.” Jalali is one of a dozen Taliban who are now learning computers at the transport ministry.

According to government spokesman Bilal Karimi, the desire of combatants like Jalali to return to school demonstrates the educational aspirations of Afghans.

He told the media that many motivated mujahideen who hadn’t finished their education reached out to educational institutions and are now enrolled in their preferred courses.

Secondary school girls have been prohibited from attending classrooms since the Taliban retook power, and despite assurances from some in the leadership, there is still no indication that they will be permitted to return.

Even if the majority of the previous curriculum has not changed, studies in music and art have been dropped from schools and universities, which are currently experiencing a teacher and lecturer shortage due to the exodus of Afghanistan’s educated elite.

But Jalali and other Taliban students have huge ideas.

Around 300 Taliban fighters attend Kabul’s Muslim Institute, which has a student body of about 3,000, half of whom are women. Many of the Taliban fighters are recognizable by their bushy beards and turbans.

During a recent trip, a Taliban fighter was seen by the media retrieving a gun from a locker room after class. This was an odd sight in a room decorated in pastel colors with coed student posters.

“They surrender their guns when they get there. They don’t employ force or abuse their position, “a representative of the institute who declined to be named claimed.

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