The Taliban, who returned to power six months ago, insist they will allow girls and women to be educated this time around – but only in segregated classes and according to an Islamic curriculum.
Afghanistan's main universities have reopened six months after the Taliban returned to power, but only a trickle of women returned to now-segregated classes.
On Saturday Kabul University, the country's oldest and biggest with a student body of around 25,000 last year, re-opened without fanfare – and few students in attendance.
Taliban guards refused journalists access to the sprawling campus and chased away media teams lingering near the entrance.
AFP, however, spoke to some students away from the gates, who expressed mixed feelings after their first day back.
"I am happy that the university resumed...we want to continue our studies," said an English major who asked to be identified only as Basira.
But she said there were "some difficulties" – including students being scolded by Taliban guards for bringing their mobile phones to class.
"They did not behave well with us... they were rude," she said.
Most secondary schools for girls and all public universities were shuttered following the Taliban's August 15 takeover, sparking fears women would be barred from education – as happened during the first rule of the group, from 1996-2001.
The Taliban insist they will allow girls and women to be educated this time around – but only in segregated classes and according to an Islamic curriculum.
No students in Panjshir
There was also a shortage of lecturers, she said, adding: "Maybe because some have left the country."
A similar picture emerged from campuses across the country, although no students returned to class at Panjshir University, in the heartland of a nascent resistance to the Taliban's rule.
"I do not know if they will come tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, or not," said Professor Noor-ur-Rehman Afzali.
Panjshir was the last province to fall to the Taliban, and Jaber Jibran, a faculty head, said several classrooms destroyed in that fighting had still not been repaired.
In Herat, the ancient Silk Road city near the Iranian border and once one of the Islamic world's most important intellectual centres, students also complained about a lack of tutors.
"Some of our professors have also left the country, but we are happy that the university gates are open," said Parisa Narwan, studying arts.
In Kabul, student Haseenat said campus life for women was now very different to before.
"We are told not to go out of our classes," she told AFP.
"There is no cafeteria anymore... we are not allowed to go to the university's courtyard."