35 Afghan students who were expected to pursue higher education in the United Kingdom under the UK government’s scholarships as of September, will no longer be able to study in the country due to Foreign Office pausing the scholarship program following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
The Foreign Office stressed that the Chevening Scholarships would be deferred for a year as the embassy is unable to process student visas due to the current situation in Afghanistan, Erudera.com reports.
Students have been informed this month about the decision through a letter by the British Ambassador to Kabul, Sir Laurie Bristow.
“After careful deliberation, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has with deep regret decided to pause the Chevening programme in Afghanistan for the academic year 2021-2022,” the letter reads.
The affected Afghan students did not want to speak publicly about the situation, fearful that they could become targets of Taliban fighters. Students also said they are skeptical whether they will be able to leave Afghanistan in a year.
“I cannot sleep. When we really need it, you are taking it away,” scholarship student Naimatullah Zafary told the BBC, adding that some students have been in panic in a virtual meeting with embassy staff held on Thursday about the deferral of their scholarships.
During the meeting, students proposed to have their visas processed in third countries; however, the alternatives were not approved by the UK embassy in Kabul.
Two former Conservative cabinet ministers David Lidington and Rory Stewart, have expressed indignation over the move. At the same time, they urged the foreign secretary Dominic Raab to initiate urgent interventions.
“Surely those accepted onto #Chevening will be at particular risk from Taliban & among ‘brightest & best’ whom our government rightly wants to attract to UK,” David Lidington said on Twitter.
A spokesperson for the Foreign Office said that scholars being unable to enter the UK this year will be able to begin their study programs next year.
“Current circumstances in Afghanistan mean the embassy cannot administer the parts of the programme which must be done in Kabul. We have therefore paused the Chevening programme there. All of this year’s scholars will be allowed to start the course next year instead,” the spokesperson said.
The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan on Sunday after the US decided to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan after 20 years of military operations.