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UN may hand over Afghan education projects to Taliban

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KABUL: The U.N. children’s agency has said it is discussing with the Taliban over possibility and timelines for a handover of UN education programmes in Afghanistan.

UNICEF said that the Taliban could ban international organisations could no longer be involved in education projects, in a move criticized by the U.N. but not yet confirmed by Afghan authorities.

Aid officials conceded they received assurances from the Taliban education ministry that its community-based classes, which educate 500,000 students, would continue while they discussed the matter.

UNICEF runs many community-based classes including for 300,000 girls, often in homes in rural areas.

“As the lead agency for the education cluster in Afghanistan, UNICEF is engaged in constructive discussions with the de facto Ministry of Education and appreciates the commitment from the de facto minister to keep all … classes continuing while discussions take place about timelines and practicalities,” UNICEF’s Afghanistan spokesperson, Samantha Mort, told Reuters.

“In order to minimize disruption to children’s learning, it is imperative that any handover to national NGOs is done strategically and includes comprehensive assessment and capacity building.”

A spokesperson for the Taliban did not respond to request for comment. The Ministry of Education has not publicly confirmed the policy.

International organisations have been heavily involved in education projects, and UNICEF made an agreement with the Taliban to run community classes before they took over the country.

Two humanitarian sources told Reuters this month that aid agencies had been told provincial authorities had been directed to stop the involvement of international organisations in education projects, possibly within weeks.

The U.N. spokesperson in New York said the move would be a “horrendous step backwards”.

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