Farahnaz Roman, an alumnus of the Chevening Scholarship program from Afghanistan who currently works for a UK-based law firm, discusses the United Kingdom’s recent decision to pause the acceptance of applications from Afghanistan for the prestigious Chevening Scholarship.
The United Kingdom’s recent decision to triple the number of Chevening Scholarships for Ukrainian students gave me goosebumps. It was precisely the way a country should respond to a nation in crisis, I told myself.
At the same time, it’s heartbreaking to know how selective this help can be. Not only has Afghanistan apparently failed to qualify as a nation in crisis under UK standards; the UK government has opted to exacerbate the miseries the students and aspiring scholars of Afghanistan are enduring. A recent decision to bar students from Afghanistan from applying for the Chevening Scholarships is simply unfair.
While we all appreciate the UK’s decision to increase the number of scholarships for Ukrainians, a nation facing uncertainties similar to those faced by their Afghan counterparts, we are devastated to hear they have cut these scholarships for Afghans. Without digressing to reflect upon the specific difficulties the people of Afghanistan are presently facing, I must admit I am unable to understand the logic according to which their suffering has proven insufficient to attract support.
Each year, Chevening Scholarships support vibrant youths from across the world and from a multitude of scholarly and professional fields. Over the past two decades, Chevening has sponsored hundreds of young Afghans whose contributions to the development of the country have been enormously consequential in areas ranging from legislative affairs to policy building, to healthcare. Thus, among the long-term implications of Chevening’s decision will be a reduction in Afghanistan’s human capital.
Chevening prides itself on developing leaders for the future. So what does that mean for Afghanistan’s scholars? If they lack opportunities inside their country as well as out, there are few options aside from the next Dark Age. In the absence of the next generation of global leaders, the nation will remain in the hands of those still living in the past.
My Chevening journey, which focused on an array of legal and human rights issues, was an eye-opening experience that added indispensable. value to my understanding of the world. As a result of this and other global educational opportunities, I now work as a paralegal at a UK-based law firm, which enables me to make a difference in the daily lives of individuals facing human rights challenges. And I hold out hope one day with the help of the international community and human rights champions I would be able to do the same in my country again.
Thousands of young Afghans have been desperately waiting for this year’s Chevening Scholarship application period to open. They spent days and nights preparing and honing their applications. On August 1st, the opening of the application for others and unexpected closure for Afghans, left them bereft of hope.
While other driven students around the world give their all to compete for this opportunity, Afghans find themselves in the position of fighting for their educations both inside and outside of their country?
Excluding Afghans from such learning opportunities hinders their fundamental right to education and myriad related rights, which no one should be deprived of.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office while maintaining that no decision has yet been made concerning the 2023-24 program, said “[w]e hope to continue our support for an Afghan Chevening cohort in future years.”
However, they failed to provide a justification for excluding Afghanistan. The Chevening Secretariat has closed the application portal on its website. However, it did not include any explanation of the grounds for exclusion.
The UK is among the members of the international community that once vowed to support Afghanistan; it is utterly sickening to see an entire country thrown to the wolves as the world watches the meltdown from a safe distance.
Unlike Chevening, the German DAAD Scholarships have not only continued to provide scholarships for Afghan students but increased the quota and rolled out new scholarship schemes for at-risk scholars from the country. Similarly, many universities in Italy created funding programs for Afghan students and scholars to continue their studies abroad.
On August 15, Afghanistan marked one year since the Taliban’s latest rise. In the course of that year, these officials have robbed the country’s people of food, shelter, work, peace, freedom, and the right to an education. With so little information to work with amid its severing of the Afghan Chevening Scholarship, it would appear as though the UK government has taken its first step toward joining the Taliban’s educational ban. And if so, what’s next
As a human rights advocate, I urge the UK government to reconsider its decision and to let Afghan youth benefit from the wonderful opportunity that my fellow scholars and I enjoyed.
I want the world to have faith in the resilience and strength of Afghan youth, and to support them throughout their journey. In the absence of educational discrimination, they would have the power to bring Afghanistan out of its ongoing oppression.
Farahnaz Roman is an alumnus of the Chevening Scholarship program from Afghanistan who currently works for a UK-based law firm.
Suggested citation: Farahnaz Roman, The Taliban Banned Afghanistan’s Girls From Education; the UK’s Recent Ban Affects Afghans of Every Gender, JURIST – Academic Commentary, August 17, 2022, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2022/08/the-taliban-banned-afghanistans-girls-from-education-the-uks-recent-ban-affects-afghans-of-every-gender.
This article was prepared for publication by Ingrid Burke Friedman, JURIST Commentary and Features Editor. Please direct any questions or comments to her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Opinions expressed in JURIST Commentary are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST's editors, staff, donors or the University of Pittsburgh.