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  • Writer's picturejoeseaton2

The British Council are failing the forgotten teachers.

Updated: Apr 13, 2023

As the abandoned British Council teachers hide out in Afghanistan during another cold, dangerous winter, the British Council have sadly shown themselves to be utterly irresponsible. The British Council has consistently failed to engage with their teachers, or show any leadership in dealing with the disastrous situation in Afghanistan.

Prior to the fall of Afghanistan, the British Council did not inform their teachers of the ARAP scheme. Since then the British Council have been unwilling to engage consistently and effectively with their teachers, instead relying on volunteers to feed information to them. They do not know how many of their former employees are left behind in Afghanistan, and they do not know the status of their former employees’ ACRS applications, or their security situation.

In March 2022 (almost a year ago), the British Council Deputy CEO, Kate Ewart-Biggs, informed the British Council APPG “nearly all staff [have been] relocated under the ARAP scheme and most contractors [have been] relocated.” This is completely wrong, with almost all the contractors still living in hiding in Afghanistan. The APPG is the British Council’s best link to Parliament, and it is shocking that the APPG was given this completely incorrect information.

There are a number of reasons the BC is not getting its information correct. One reason seems to be that they don’t care, or don’t care enough. Another is they seem simply unwilling to allocate the necessary resources to addressing the issue. Instead of allocating more staff to provide logistical support, they have distanced themselves from the issue, and tried to blame the FCDO – claiming they themselves are not responsible for the process.

It was embarrassing to see the FCDO minister get the figures so wrong in the Westminster Hall debate earlier this month, but he can be forgiven to some extent, as the British Council have not been providing reliable information, instead trying to shift the responsibility. If the British Council feel they don’t have funds to allow them to allocate more resources to the problem, perhaps they should consider selling some of their vast art collection.

Earlier this month, Tory MP John Baron (The head of the British Council APPG) repeatedly asked ministers in Westminster to confirm exactly how many former British Council contractors had been confirmed as eligible for the ACRS scheme. The British Council is claiming that the FCDO should have this data. But this is wrong. The British Council should have this information. The British Council should be in direct contact with all their former employees. The British Council should know exactly where they are, how far progressed their applications are, what their passport and visa situation is, and also what their security status is.

Frustratingly, The British Council don’t know this important information. The British Council urgently needs to create an inventory, listing all of this information. Their approach to information management is wholly unsatisfactory, and proving to be a liability. Two weeks ago the Daily Mail reported that a former British Council teacher had been detained by the Taliban. The British Council contacted me to get an update. I asked them if they were going to contact the teacher, they said “probably not”. I have sent a follow up email asking them if they intend to contact him, but have had no response.

This weekend the British Council contacted me again, to say a UK-based volunteer had given them an update on the application of a teacher – they asked me to keep them informed if I heard of any other news regarding progress of the teachers’ applications. This is completely unacceptable. The British Council should allocate resources to do this themselves. The British Council should be in direct contact with all their teachers. Instead, they have tried to distance themselves from the teachers and rely on random updates from volunteers. This shoddy approach is a security risk, and leaves them with incomplete and unreliable information.

The British Council has no record of which former employees have confirmed ACRS eligibility, Security Clearance, passports or visas. Travel documents are now extremely hard to obtain, passport offices have been closed for months but passports are available on the black-market for approximately $2,500 US. With visas costing a further $1,000 +, for those teachers who now have ACRS approval, the financial barriers to getting to safety are massive.

“When our British Council colleagues left under the ARAP scheme, before the Taliban takeover, a passport cost $70. Now it costs $2,500. Further to this, I have been living in hiding, unable to work for a year and a half, it seems impossible for me to get to safety. I feel completely trapped”. ‘Farad’

The British Council needs to work out how to support their former employees to leave Afghanistan without passports and visas, as was discussed in parliament. Failing that, the British Council needs to sell some more of its vast art collection to provide funds in order to support the teachers.

The British Council also needs to put together a comprehensive inventory of information so it is completely informed and up to date on former employees circumstances. If they could be bothered to do this, then MPs like John Baron wouldn’t need to ask the FCDO about numbers, they could instead be empowered, and tell the FCDO the figures.

I have been asking the BC to put a current BC employee into the teachers’ WhatsApp groups since the Taliban took over, but they have refused. This is a mistake and the BC should rectify this, by putting a current employee into the WhatsApp groups ASAP.

The BC claim to be doing all they can to help their former teachers. They claim to be engaging with their staff. Nothing is further from the truth. Their approach so far has been irresponsible, short-sighted, dismissive and lazy. They need to do much better.

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