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  • Writer's picturejoeseaton2

‘Happy’ World Teachers Day 2023 to Afghan British Council teachers.

This is the 3rd World Teachers Day that Afghan British council teachers have spent in hiding in Afghanistan, or in limbo in hotels in Pakistan.

BC teachers on World Teachers Day 2018 at the British Embassy in Kabul

While I was working at the British Council office in Kabul, World Teachers’ Day was always a big deal. We would invite our teachers in for cake and photos and a celebration of the value and importance of teachers in Afghanistan. Sadly, this World Teachers’ Day there will be no cake for the former British Council teachers, and certainly no photos.

When the Taliban took power in August 2021, the British Council teachers were all very surprised to be left behind. They all met the UK Government criteria for relocation, but were excluded from the ARAP scheme and left in great danger. They felt sure that the British Council & the FCDO would work together to resolve the issue, as both organisations were well aware of the previous violent attacks on British Council employees in Afghanistan, and knew the teachers would be targets for Taliban violence.

Since the Taliban takeover a number of the teachers have been victims of violence as a direct result of their work for the British Council, yet over 2 years later, the issue is still unresolved and the situation for the abandoned teachers is getting worse by the day.

Over 30 of the teachers are still living in hiding in Afghanistan. These teachers are waiting for the FCDO to approve their ACRS applications and confirm that they are eligible for relocation to the UK. Other former British Council teachers still in Afghanistan have been rejected from the relocation schemes due to technicalities or bureaucratic errors. One has even been rejected for following advice specifically given by the British Council. They all continue to be in danger, and it is highly disappointing that their applications remain unprocessed after such a long time.

A further 50 British Council teachers have managed to escape Afghanistan but remain stuck in hotels in Pakistan. These teachers have all been approved for relocation to the UK on the government’s ACRS scheme. They were specifically advised by the FCDO to travel to Pakistan to await relocation to the UK, but most have now been waiting in limbo in Islamabad for over 8 months. The teachers in Pakistan have no access to education or healthcare and are all there ‘illegally’, as their visas have now expired. They greatly fear being returned to Afghanistan, back to the Taliban regime they managed to escape, and cannot leave their hotels or guest houses in case they are arrested and deported.

Worryingly the Pakistan government have recently announced plans to deport all Afghans without the correct documentation. This news comes amid reports of increased tension between the two countries and further increases the anxiety for this displaced cohort of teachers.

World Teachers Day 2019 at the Embassy Kabul

For all the teachers, their current plight is wretched, and while they continue to hope for change and intervention, the endless waiting and hollow promises are demoralising and demeaning. They are all still very aware of the fact that the British Council were able to get their managers and office staff safely evacuated to the UK prior to ‘Operation Pitting’, while almost all the teachers were left behind. The teachers all believed that such a blatant miscarriage of justice would be quickly addressed by the British Council and FCDO, but more than 2 years since the fall of Kabul, they remain stuck and in danger.

In the years prior to the Taliban takeover, the British council had established large-scale education programmes in Afghanistan and had actively recruited teachers from across the country to deliver them. The education programmes were commissioned and funded by the British Government and focused on English language, teacher training and ‘UK Values’ (including EDI). The teachers work for the BC, the sensitive nature of the programmes they taught, and the controversial content they delivered all put them at great risk. As a group they now feel extremely disappointed that their efforts were not valued, and that the work they did on behalf of the UK Government has left them in such danger.

At the time of the fall of Kabul, at least 109 former British Council teachers had applied for relocation to the UK. Since that time only 5 have been relocated under the UK Government’s ACRS scheme. All the teachers still stuck in Afghanistan and Pakistan continue to hope the UK Government can increase their efforts to resolve this issue.

World Teachers Day cake served at the Embassy in Kabul
WTD 2019 social media published by BC

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