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Taliban cancel girls' higher education despite assurance

  In a surprise decision, the hardline leadership of Afghanistan’s new rulers has decided against opening educational institutions to girls beyond Grade six, a Taliban official said on Wednesday on the first day of Afghanistan’s new school year. The latest setback for girls’ education is certain to receive widespread condemnation from the international community that has been urging the Taliban leaders to open schools and give women their right to public space. The unexpected decision came late on Tuesday as Afghanistan’s education ministry prepared for the New Year opening of school, which was expected to herald the return of girls to school. A statement by the ministry earlier in the week urged “all students” to come to school. However, the decision to postpone a return of girls going to school in higher levels appeared to be a concession to the rural and deeply tribal backbone of the hardline Taliban movement, that in many parts of the countryside are reluctant to send their daughters to school. Girls have been banned from school beyond Grade six in most of the country since the Taliban returned to power in mid-August. In the capital, Kabul private schools and universities have operated uninterrupted.