• Sunday, July 03, 2022

ASIA

Afghan students including girls in despair as UK pauses scholarships: report

Taliban fighters sit on a vehicle along the street in Jalalabad province on August 15, 2021. (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Pramod Thomas

AS MANY AS 35 Afghan students, including girls, who were offered Chevening Scholarships by the government to study in the UK, have been told they will not now be able to take up their places, reported the BBC.

These scholarships enable promising students around the world to pursue a masters degree in the UK.

The Foreign Office said the situation in Afghanistan meant the British Embassy there would not finish preparations in time for this year, the report said.

The decision has been criticised by two former Conservative cabinet ministers.

“I cannot sleep,” Naimatullah Zafary, one of the scholarship students, told the BBC. “When we really need it, you are taking it away.”

According to the report, Zafary, 35, applied four years running before finally getting accepted on the scholarship programme, to study governance, development and public policy at the University of Sussex.

He currently works for the UN and lives in Kabul, but wanted to use his skills to improve Afghanistan’s local government.

However, last week, he was told the place had to be deferred until next year because they could not issue visas.

More than 30 of the 35 students with places this year have resigned from their jobs in Afghanistan and some declined promotions, the BBC report said.

Many of the women fear that as the Taliban extends its rule, their educational opportunities will disappear, it added.

The former Conservative cabinet minister David Lidington said on Twitter that the decision to withdraw the scholarships seemed both “morally wrong and against UK interests”.

“Surely those accepted onto #Chevening will be at particular risk from Taliban & among ‘brightest & best’ whom our government rightly wants to attract to UK,” he said.

He urged the prime minister and foreign secretary Dominic to review the situation “urgently”.

Former international development secretary Rory Stewart said it was “deeply disappointing” that visas could not be sorted out.

A Foreign Office spokesperson told the BBC that all of this year’s scholars would be able to start their programme next year.

Taliban insurgents entered Afghanistan’s capital Kabul on Sunday (15) and said they expected to take power within days, promising to moderate their earlier hardline Islamist rule even as foreign diplomats and many locals tried to leave.

Eastern Eye

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