The decision to award 50 scholarships to Afghan girls comes after a two-year hiatus
A virtual gender apartheid has continued in Afghanistan after Kabul fell to a Taliban administration on August 15, 2021.
The right of Afghan girls to seek education has been suspended for months since the Taliban banned female students from attending universities.
Education is a basic human right of every citizen. Article 26 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to education. The ban on girls’ education is one of the reasons the Taliban have been facing criticism worldwide.
At a time when girls’ education is all but banned in Afghanistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan (AWKUM), has announced 50 scholarships for Afghan girls. The university administration has already established a student welfare endorsement fund in this regard. A total of Rs 20 million has been allocated for the programme.
Professor Dr Zahoor-ul Haq, the AWKUM vice chancellor, says that the varsity will provide a minimum of 50 scholarships for Afghan girls. “Currently, 52 male and one female Afghan citizens are studying at the AWKUM under various scholarship programmes,” the vice chancellor tells The News on Sunday.
“Because the male-to-female ratio of Afghan students is so skewed, we are announcing this scholarship programme to encourage Afghan female students,” said the professor.
“These 50 scholarships are only for Afghan girls who can get two-year associate degrees. The two-year expenses will be paid by the university,” explained Dr Haq. “The cost of transport and hostel fee are not included in the scholarship,” he tells TNS.
The AWKUM announced the scholarships in the middle of last month. The admission process is online. The application for the scholarship is easy and takes five minutes.
The last date to apply for the scholarships is September 20. It may be extended. So far 80 Afghan citizens have applied for admission, including 26 girls.
In another development, the Khyber Medical University, Peshawar, has decided to offer admissions in all bachelor’s programmes to Afghan students and charge all Afghan students the same fees as Pakistani students.
The purpose of this decision is to assist in the availability of trained medical personnel to deal with the healthcare problems in a war-torn Afghanistan.
This decision was taken in a high-level meeting held at the KMU. The meeting was chaired by Vice-Chancellor Professor Dr Zia-ul Haq. The meeting was also attended by the Afghan Consulate officials.
An official statement released to the media stated that the programme aimed at providing quality medical education to Afghan students so that they could help resolve the healthcare problems their country has faced for the last 40 years.
Hikmatullah Ahmadi, an Afghan citizen pursuing a bachelor’s in economics from International Islamic University, Islamabad, under the Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarship programme, says that more than 600 Afghan citizens are currently pursuing higher education at the IIUI. He says that only 150 of those recipients of AIS grants. “For the last two years the Pakistan government has not announced any Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarships for Afghan students,” he says.
Tahir Khan, an Islamabad-based journalist who has been covering Afghan affairs for longer than three decades tells TNS that a new scholarship scheme for Afghan students has been on the cards for a while now. “Both the PTI government and the PDM coalition government were considering introducing a programme for Afghan students,” says Khan.
This happened after the Taliban banned girl’s education from Grade 6 to master’s. “The ban on girls’ education has created a two-year education gap for girls. Unfortunately, Afghanistan is already facing a shortage of doctors. Other Pakistani Universities need to follow the example of Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan, and the Khyber Medical University,” says the journalist.
The government has offered scholarships to Afghan students under the Prime Minister’s Scholarship Programme.
The first such programme was introduced back in 2010. Multi-disciplinary scholarships in the fields of medicine, engineering, business studies and computers allowed Afghan students to pursue higher education in Pakistan.
For the last two years, there has been no such programme. “It is unfortunate that for the last two years, the government has not offered scholarships for Afghan citizens,” says Khan.
At least 137 Afghan students are enrolled under the AIS at the University of Peshawar, one of the oldest education institutions in the province. Out of these, 134 are male and three female. Four Nangarhar University faculty members are also enrolled under this scheme.
To get accurate data on Afghan students currently pursuing higher education in Pakistan, TNS contacted the Pakistan High Commission in Kabul which referred it to the Higher Education Commission where a dedicated project director is overseeing the AIS. However, the PD did not reply to requests for comment on the number of Afghan students in Pakistan.
The writer is a freelance multimedia journalist. He tweets @daudpasaney