July 15, 2019
Latest News

Embarrassing forced haircuts at Afghan schools become a thing of the past

By Baber Khan Sahel

Kabul, Jul 10 (efe-epa).- Badar Amar, a 15-year old student in Kabul, stopped attending school to avoid getting teased by his classmates after a teacher chopped off his hair as a form of punishment, a practice common in Afghan schools that was banned by the government earlier this month.

"Last year I was given a forced haircut in class; to be honest, I felt humiliated," Amar told EFE about his ordeal. "It made me a laughingstock among my classmates."

After the humiliating experience, he did not attend school for three months before finally abandoning his studies for the rest of the year.

"I was dropped from the class and this year I had to start the course again," he explained.

Forced haircuts as punishment for transgressions such as misbehavior or keeping long hair have been widespread in Afghan schools for decades, although the disciplinary measure was only administered to male students.

The authorities were never able to check the practice; however, students now hope that the unpopular form of punishment will be a thing of the past after a new law on July 2 explicitly banned forced haircuts in schools.

The new directive was a part of new government measures to reform the country's education system.

A significant percentage of children are outside the school system of the Asian nation, which for nearly two decades has been mired in a bloody conflict following the 2001 United States invasion that drove the Taliban from power.

"From now onwards, all types of forced and disciplinary hair shaving and haircut of the students by teachers and school managers are strictly banned based on the new directives and rules of the education ministry," Nooria Nijrabi, a spokesperson for the ministry, told EFE.

The new government directive has already been sent to all education directorates in Kabul and all Afghan provinces.

Banning the punitive measure was done to "prevent psychological trauma to students," said Nijrabi.

Amar's decision to stop attending school due to the embarrassment and fear of getting teased is not something unusual in the country.

According to the spokesperson, students that have been subjected to this practice have reported feeling "humiliated when given forced haircut in schools."

Although occasionally used as a disciplinary punishment, for decades Afghan schools have systematically resorted to giving haircuts to compel students to keep short hair and ensure good hygiene.

In addition, there has been an apparent belief among school authorities that keeping exuberant hairstyles could distract students from their studies.

"Now if we see a student who is observing hygiene and can keep his hair clean, and the long hair doesn’t disturb his sight in class, then the student is free to choose his hairstyle," said Nijrabi.

Even if the students fail to keep their hair neat, teachers will no longer be able to threaten them with an unappealing hairdo, but will have to persuade them to get a haircut of their own volition.

Teachers found violating the new directive may be handed administrative punishment or may even face suspension or dismissal.

In this manner, the government has looked to provide an added incentive for children to continue with their studies.

According to data from the ministry of education, 22.3 percent of the 9.4 million children attending school in the country are absent for different reasons.

Just because girls were exempted from the punishment of forced haircuts did not imply that their situation within the education system has been any better after the US invasion overthrew the radical Taliban regime.

There are 3.7 million children who remain outside the educational system of the country due to different reasons, and 75 percent of them are girls.

"We already have more than enough students out of schools because of various problems, and we don’t want, by continuing this unfair practice, to discourage more students from (going to) school," Nijrabi explained. EFE-EPA

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