KABUL, Afghanistan: Afghanistan's education ministry has announced that the country's school year has begun, but the United Nations children's agency, UNICEF, renewed calls for teenage girls to be able to attend classes.
After claiming they would open schools for all students last year, Taliban authorities made a U-Turn and banned girls from attending classes, causing global condemnation that has hampered the Islamist group's efforts to gain international recognition.
Afghan primary schools for girls have stayed open, but for the most part high schools have been closed.
In December, the Taliban banned female students from attending university, causing an international outcry and protests in some Afghan cities.
"As the new school year in Afghanistan begins, we rejoice in the millions of boys and girls returning to primary school classrooms. Yet, we are deeply disappointed not to see adolescent girls going back to their classrooms, as well," tweeted Fran Equiza, UNICEF's Afghanistan representative.
As a result of the Taliban ban, enrollment at female religious schools, the only remaining option for girls, has increased over the past year.
In the capital, Kabul, school openings appeared limited during Nowruz, the Persian New Year, which is widely celebrated in Afghanistan and had previously been a public holiday.
In 2022, Taliban authorities said they would not recognize Nowruz as a public holiday, but they did not prevent people from celebrating in private.