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  • Writer's picturejoeseaton2

Back to School? Not for the displaced children of Afghan British Council teachers:

With children across the UK returning to school earlier this month, it’s worth sparing a thought for the Afghan children stuck in hotels in Pakistan, with no access to education. These children have been deprived of education for over 2 years now and are missing out on the opportunity to develop essential skills and acquire important knowledge.

The irony is, these young people are the children of teachers. Sadly, it is the work their parents did in the past which has meant the children are now unable to access education. The fact the teachers were employed by the British Council in Afghanistan meant that when the Taliban took power they had to go into hiding. Many left their home towns and attempted to disappear, moving to new areas and staying out of public view. Their children were unable to attend school, instead staying home as their families sought to be as invisible and unknown as possible. Further to this, with the Taliban takeover, the parents were unable to continue teaching and so had no income to support their children’s schooling.

Gradually, more and more of the teachers have been accepted on the UK Government’s ACRS programme (Afghan Citizens Relocation Scheme), and many have now been relocated to Pakistan, where they await relocation to the UK. Sadly, since their arrival in Pakistan, no education has been made available for their children. Many of the children have now been stuck in hotel rooms for the last 8 months, with no access to education and no indication of when they will be moved to Britain to continue their lives.

It is disappointing that no provision has been made by their former employer, the British Council, who are very well placed to intervene and provide education for both the teachers and their children. They have a large office in Islamabad and they are experts at digital education, yet for some reason they have made no effort to provide education for their former employees or their children.

Regardless of the neglectful approach of the UK Government and the British Council, the Afghans I worked with were some of the most determined and committed teachers I have encountered anywhere, so keen to try to make better lives for themselves and their families. One thing they can take courage from is their own ability to educate.

As no one else is stepping into the education vacuum their children find themselves in, the teachers are putting on classes for their own children, and for other children in the holding hotels they are stuck in. They are using whatever space they can find, turning bedrooms and hallways into make-shift classrooms, and creating materials from scrap paper. While not ideal, it is encouraging to see they still have such a commitment to education that even in the face of adversity they find ways to provide learning opportunities for those around them.

Most of the pictures I have received from Afghans over the last 2 years have been depressing images of violence in Afghanistan, or cramped leaking hotel rooms in Pakistan. It was encouraging to receive images of displaced Afghans putting on classes for the children stuck in the hotels and guest houses. I am sure such resourceful and creative individuals will make a positive impact when they finally reach their new country.

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