Afghan students left in limbo over French scholarships

Afghan students left in limbo over French scholarships
Afghan students who have applied for a prestigious French scholarship programme have been left in limbo following the Taliban's takeover and France's exit from Kabul. They don't know what will happen next and feel 'hopeless'.
3 min read
28 August, 2021
France finished its evacuation operation from Afghanistan's capital on Friday [Getty]

Afghan students who have secured places at French universities have been left in limbo as Paris has provided no confirmation about the status of their scholarships just weeks before term starts. 

A group of around 17 Afghans applied for the French government’s BGF scholarship, an international scheme to study at French universities, before the Taliban’s lightning offensive and capture of Kabul. 

However, as the security situation in Afghanistan deteriorated rapidly and western countries, including France, withdrew troops, the fate of these young Afghans has become more and more uncertain. 

Despite contacting the French ambassador and setting up a petition to draw attention to their predicament, the students have received no word on whether their scholarships are cancelled or whether there is safe passage for them, said one Afghan who spoke to The New Arab. 

Live Story

The Afghan student, currently in Afghanistan with his younger sister, applied for the French scholarship and received admission letters from two French universities – Normandie Business School, and Emlv Business School De Vinci. 

“We don’t know if they’ve cancelled or what’s going on,” he said to The New Arab. 

 While the scholarship scheme is usually awarded to 20 to 25 people, the number was reduced to around five this year, the student explained. 

The French Institute of Afghanistan sent an email to the student around one month ago to say that the scholarship programme was “heavily affected by the departure to France of most of the local staff”. 

The email read: “the whole process has been changed”. But applicants have not been contacted about the changes, and there has been no official response as to who will get a place or whether places are deferred. 

The students feel “disappointed,” said young Afghan, given the amount of time and effort required to apply. “We are completely surrounded by a lot of problems,” he added. 

'Now everything is completely changed. We don’t know what will happen next. We are struggling with life and death,' said one Afghan student 

“Now everything is completely changed. We don’t know what will happen next. We are struggling with life and death.

“It is not about, like, dreaming for the future,” said the student, who originally applied for the scholarship to educate himself and come back to work for his country.  

“Everything is terrifying,” he said. “We are just looking and hoping.” 

The 26-year-old also applied to an Italian university, given the lack of certainty over his French scholarship. To secure a place, he will have to go to a second country - like Pakistan, India, or Iran - and then complete the visa process from there.

Travelling across a border and getting a visa in Afghanistan to neighbouring countries, however, is very difficult, said a source close to the Afghan’s students case. The source, who is well informed on immigration from Afghanistan, stressed that the situation of these young Afghans and the process of applying to these programmes make them more at risk of Taliban reprisals.

Abdullah Ahmadi, another student facing uncertainty over his education and a member of the Hazara minority in Afghanistan, told The New Arab that the situation was “hopeless”. 

There are “no solutions,” he said, explaining how difficult it was to get a visa to India or Uzbekistan and then travel on to Europe from there. 

We’ve been “left alone,” added Ahmadi. “I did my best,” he said, “to leave the country and follow my dreams”. 

France finished its evacuation operation from Afghanistan's capital on Friday.

French Defence Minister Florence Parly said France would continue to help those who need protection to depart Afghanistan. 

The New Arab contacted the French Institute of Afghanistan for comment on the issue, but received no response at the time of writing.