The United Nations urged the Taliban on Sunday to reopen high schools for girls across Afghanistan, condemning the ban that began exactly a year ago as “tragic and shameful”. Weeks after the hardline Islamists seized power in August last year, they reopened high schools for boys on September 18 but banned secondary schoolgirls from attending classes. Months later on March 23, the education ministry opened secondary schools for girls, but within hours the Taliban leadership ordered them shut again. Since then, more than a million teenage girls have been deprived of education across the country, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said. “This is a tragic, shameful, and entirely avoidable anniversary,” Markus Potzel, the acting head of UNAMA, said in a statement. “It is profoundly damaging to a generation of girls and to the future of Afghanistan itself,” he said, adding the ban had no parallel in the world. UN chief Antonio Guterres urged the Taliban to revoke the ban. “A year of lost knowledge and opportunity that they will never get back,” Guterres said on Twitter. “Girls belong in school. The Taliban must let them back in.” Several Taliban officials say the ban is only temporary, but they have also wheeled out a litany of excuses for the closures — from a lack of funds to time needed to remodel the syllabus along Islamic lines. Earlier this month, the education minister, Noorullah Munir, was quoted by local media as saying it was a cultural issue, as many rural people did not want their teenage daughters to attend school. Grade 12 student, Kawsar, who gave a fictitious name to protect her identity, said she was frustrated that her high school has been shut for a year now. “It’s been a dark year, a year full of stress and disappointment,” she said.