When the Taliban regained power in 2021, it repressed the rights of women in Afghanistan. In December 2022, it banned Afghan women from receiving a university education. It has been very daunting for women who were already working on post-secondary degrees to suddenly be forced to stop their schooling. That’s why Afghanistan Online University (AOU) and other virtual offerings like it attract droves of Afghan women.
In response to the decree that they could not attend university, many Afghan women have started to demonstrate for their rights. They attend school secretly in Afghanistan and take classes online. Based in Germany, AOU’s mission is to provide higher education for Afghans in order to make Afghanistan a more peaceful and successful country.
Afghanistan Online University Basics
Afghan academics who voluntarily left Afghanistan to live in Europe founded AOU. The online school strives to give higher education to Afghans both inside and outside the country, focusing on those living in refugee camps or other unstable settings. It offers ten fields of study: information and computer science, education, psychology, social work, sociology, political science, journalism/communication science, economics, business studies and language and literature. In addition, the university explores the details of the culture and society in Afghanistan.
Similar to most open universities, the AOU has study programs at both bachelor and master levels as well as doctoral training. It employs 60 professors and 60 junior academic staff. In addition, it uses an administrative staff to cover teaching assignments.
AOU needs funding to accommodate more students and support future projects, but as of now, it is offering free classes. The Taliban has rejected the AOU’s accreditation request so the university is pursuing it from the European Union.
The university can currently accommodate about 5,000 students, but with limited additional support, it could enroll even more. A physical campus university facility where the students could access a library and a computer system would cost an estimated 30 million euros and require additional funds for scholarship and research development.
Although the university is facing challenges including language barriers and the risk of students being caught, the students are determined to continue their education. They remain anonymous and use fake names in order to not be discovered and remain safe. Widespread internet cuts and poor Afghan internet connection negatively impact the number of people served. To combat that, AOU is recording lectures to reduce the problems caused by these interruptions. Moreover, students unable to attend classes or complete homework due to internet issues are given deadline extensions.
Of course, AOU is not a permanent solution. It is crucial that the rights of Afghan women vastly improve, which includes opening universities to them once again. However, Afghanistan Online University is putting forth commendable effort and giving worthwhile educational opportunities to many individuals.
– Megan Roush