Secret schools for girls are cropping up all over Afghanistan after the Taliban banned girls from going to middle and high school.
Founded by parents and volunteer teachers and often funded out of their own pockets, the schools are scattered at locations such as private residences, storerooms and mosques.
“I have a lot of dreams and I have a lot of hopes,” one girl attending a secret school told France24. “I don’t want to sit at home because sitting at home is wasting time.”
Many of the teachers were driven by their desire to help young girls to continue to pursue their education after seeing them slide into depression after being banned from going back to school despite re-opening schools for boys.
“[My mother] asked me, ‘will they kill you if they discover you?’ I told her no, they will probably just hit me. So she said ‘Do it, you’ll forget a slap in an hour or two,'”, one woman teacher who opened a private school told the Guardian.
Another woman teacher told the BBC that while they are aware of the risks and worry about them, girls’ education is worth “any risk”.
The Taliban had justified its announcement to close secondary education in March by saying that it must review school uniforms for girls.
Since, Taliban officials have said that the ban is temporary, citing reasons such as needing to change security, uniforms, teachers, buildings or the curriculum.
Although primary girls can still go to school and women can attend university, teen girls will not be able to take university entrance exams without a secondary school certificate.
“Psychologically they are under stress all the time, I can see in their eyes and behavior. They used to come with lots of energy and excitement. Now they are never sure if this will be their last day in class. You can see how they are broken,” one headteacher at a secret school told the Guardian.