Girls return to some secondary schools in northern Afghanistan

The Taliban has yet to change policy on girls' schooling in Kabul

A child on her way to school on the outskirts of Herat. Girls have returned to some secondary schools in a northern province of Afghanistan, Taliban officials and teachers said. AFP

Girls have returned to some secondary schools in a northern province of Afghanistan, Taliban officials and teachers said on Tuesday, but they remain barred from classrooms in much of the country.

The new hardline government also announced at a stage-managed rally that some female civil servants have been called back to work and that a backlog of salaries would be paid, in signs the Taliban may be trying to soften its public image after 50 days in power.

A video posted by the group's spokesman Suhail Shaheen showed dozens of schoolgirls in black, some wearing white head scarves and others with black face veils, sitting in chairs waving Taliban flags.

“Girls are going to high schools in Khan Abad, Kunduz Province,” the Doha-based spokesman said on Twitter, Mr Shaheen has been nominated as the new Afghan government's permanent representative to the United Nations.

But in Kabul, education ministry official Mohammad Abid said there had been no policy change from the Taliban's interim central government, telling AFP on Tuesday: “High schools still remain closed for girls.”

The Taliban, notorious for their brutal and oppressive rule from 1996 to 2001, have faced international disapproval after effectively excluding women and girls from education and work across the country, while incrementally stripping away Afghans' freedoms.

They permitted girls to attend primary school from the start, but have maintained that neither they nor their female teachers could return to secondary school yet.