Dozens of state schools, public universities, and vocational training centers have been turned by the Taliban into Islamic seminaries across Afghanistan.
Equipped with a science laboratory, library, and computer lab, the Abdul Hai Habibi High School was considered one of the most modern and prestigious government schools in southeastern Afghanistan.
But since the Taliban seized power in August 2021, the secular school in the city of Khost has been converted into a madrasah, or religious seminary, forcing many of its 6,000 students and 130 teachers to leave, RFE/RL reported.
Critics say the aim of the Islamist militant group is to root out all forms of the modern secular education that thrived in Afghanistan after the US-led invasion in 2001 toppled the Taliban's first regime.
Transforming Afghanistan's education system has been one of the Taliban's main goals since it regained power. The militants have banned girls from attending high school, imposed gender segregation and a new dress code at public universities, and vowed to overhaul the national curriculum. The Taliban has also unveiled plans to build a vast network of madrasahs across the country's 34 provinces.
Madrasahs have a special place in the Taliban's worldview. The word "taliban" means students of madrasahs. Many members of the Taliban, which first emerged in the 1990s, studied at radical Islamic seminaries in neighbouring Pakistan.
A teacher in eastern Afghanistan said the Taliban was converting training centers for teachers into madrasahs. He said the centres, which follow the existing curriculum devised by the former government, provided training to new teachers. Each province has at least one training centre for teachers, RFE/RL reported.
"In certain provinces, the [Taliban's] Education Ministry has already handed over training centres to be converted into jihadist madrasahs," he said.
He said the Taliban has already converted training centres in the northern province of Baghlan and the eastern province of Kunar into madrasahs.
Mohammad Mohiq, an Islamic scholar, accused the Taliban of employing "social engineering." He said the Taliban has a systematic plan to "brainwash" the next generation in madrasahs by undermining secular schools.
"This way, they can keep recruiting [madrasah] students to be their soldiers and build a medieval theocratic system," he said, RFE/RL reported.