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An Afghan girl reads the Koran in a madrasa or religious school in Kabul, Afghanistan on Oct. 8, 2022. Education for girls beyond grade six is currently banned in the country after the Taliban took over.ALI KHARA/Reuters

When the Taliban banned girls in Afghanistan from going to secondary school, 16-year-old Basira lost hope that she would be allowed to resume her studies. Now, with the help of a Canadian organization, she’s learning once again.

Her new school, which is online-only and designed specifically for girls who have been denied opportunities to learn by the fundamentalist regime, is operated by Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, a non-profit focused on education.

Although going to classes online allows Basira to stay out of the Taliban’s view, it has not been without sacrifice. She had to leave her home in Logar province and move in with an uncle 40 kilometres away in Kabul, where the internet is more reliable.

“I go home every now and then to see my family. I am happy, and think I am lucky because I can learn something this way, while hundreds of thousands are deprived of this,” she said.

She has found that learning online is better than going to school in person in at least one way: she can listen to lessons as many times as she wants. “You can always have access to it,” she said.

The Globe is identifying her and other Afghans interviewed for this story by their first names only, because they fear for their safety.

After the Taliban swept to power in the summer of 2021, regime officials were quick to ban girls from going to school past Grade 6. The move was condemned around the world.

The Taliban promised to reopen schools for girls by the end of last March, but never did. This past December, the regime forbade women from attending university. Afghanistan is the only country in the world that has banned education for women.

Lauryn Oates, Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan’s executive director, said the online high school teaches Grades 7 and 8. The organization will add more grades as quickly as it can, she said.

The school offers a full course load, she added. Classes in math, languages, history, sciences, social studies and digital literacy run the regular length of a school year.

The teaching staff is made up of Afghans. Ms. Oates said some of the instructors are women in Afghanistan who were fired from their jobs because of their gender, and some are people who have fled to other countries, including Pakistan and Turkey.

Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan was founded in 1998, and delivered programs in Afghanistan for years before the Taliban takeover. Ms. Oates said the organization has built its own online teaching platform, but allows other groups to use it. This is important, she said, because there are many grassroots initiatives working to continue education for Afghan girls.

The organization also provides Afghans with things they need for learning, such as devices, internet packages and power banks.

“So, the STEM classes, for instance – we’ve given two cohorts of those classes laptops, because they were coding robots on cellphones and it was not easy to do,” she said. In Basira’s class, each student has internet, a tablet and a power bank provided by the organization.

Since the school’s inception in August, about 50 girls from various parts of Afghanistan have linked up online to join classes.

Each applicant has to take a test before being accepted as a student, said Abdul Rahim Ahmad Parwani, a content manager with the non-profit.

“Afghanistan’s curriculum is being taught, and one additional class, Basic Trauma, has been added to it, because girls and women in Afghanistan have long suffered from trauma of war,” he said.

Sattar Bahaduri, the online school’s principal, said in an interview from Pakistan that the organization plans to add more classes for Grades 7 and 8. He estimated that some four million girls have been affected by the Taliban’s ban.

“I wish we had the capacity and means to help them all,” he said.

“People are getting in touch with us from different areas for enrolment. People are very much interested. The parents are very happy,” he added.

He said he has heard that some parents insist on total silence in their homes while classes are in progress, so that their daughters can focus without distractions.

Zarmina, a 23-year-old instructor who teaches chemistry to Grade 7 students at the school, said every woman and girl has a right to learn. She said life in Afghanistan is dangerous and difficult, but that teaching lifts her spirits.

“I’m really happy and really proud of myself because I can do something for our girls,” she said.

This story was produced in partnership with Journalists for Human Rights with funding from Meta Journalism Project.