Watch: Kabul High School Rethinks Education Under the Taliban

On the outskirts of Kabul in an area mostly populated by ethnic minority Hazaras, the private Marefat High School opened two decades ago to provide civic education to Afghan children, regardless of gender or ethnicity. Girls and boys learn critical thinking, conflict resolution, and democratic principles. They participate in student council, martial arts, musical performances, and other community-building activities, including running an edutainment TV channel with 24-hour broadcasting. Most importantly, they discover a world of possibilities for the future through a unique approach to education in the country.  

In August 2021, when the Taliban took over Afghanistan, Marefat High School—a National Endowment for Democracy (NED) partner working in Kabul since 2002—was forced to adapt its teaching methods. Aziz Royesh, founder of Marefat High School and former fellow at NED, spoke about students who were evacuated from the school and the importance of providing education for all children despite threats.


In a time of rising authoritarianism and democratic backsliding in many countries, NED’s partners around the world are facing many challenges. Some of the challenges are new, such as the rise of digital repression and the use of new technologies to silence and monitor critics. At the same time, other urgent issues and crises such as human rights violations, declining press freedom, and transnational corruption can get lost in the shuffle. To call attention to these new and resurgent threats, NED is launching a new video series—Democracy in the World—to highlight the most pressing challenges to democratic development, human rights, and governance today. Watch the full series here.