The Provost of Oriel College has announced that the number of Afghan women able to study at the College will increase after the Taliban took control of the country.

Oriel College partnered with the Yalda Hakim Foundation in March 2021 to offer a fully-funded scholarship “on the basis of academic potential and merit” for a woman from Afghanistan to study a one-year Master’s course in any subject. The first scholarship-holder is scheduled to matriculate in the 2022-23 academic year.

Yalda Hakim is a prominent journalist who was born in Afghanistan. Her family fled for Australia following the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. She recently received praise for her coverage for the BBC of the Taliban’s 2021 advance across Afghanistan, and the fall of Kabul. This included conducting an impromptu in-depth interview with Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen, after he called her while she was on air covering the fall of Kabul.

She founded the Yalda Hakim Foundation to support the “educational and professional advancement of exceptionally talented young women in Afghanistan through scholarships, internships, and mentoring”. To be eligible for a scholarship, students must be Afghan nationals. Selection for scholarship-holders originally took place across Afghanistan. But in recognition of the changing security situation in the country, and the large number of Afghans living outside Afghanistan, the Foundation is extending its search to Afghan women in other countries.

The Telegraph reported that Ms Hakim is seeking to expand the number of places available under the scholarship from one to five.

Ms Hakim said: “We are absolutely committed to ensuring that the current brain drain, and the exodus that we’re seeing in the country doesn’t mean that these people are lost. They are the best and brightest of the last 20 years, and they are the quintessential 9/11 generation.

“These are people who have not lived under the Taliban. They’ve had a lack of security, because of bomb blasts and things like that in the capital and elsewhere. But they’ve had relative freedom; freedom to study, freedom to travel, and freedom to dream.”

The Provost of Oriel College, Lord Mendoza, of King’s Reach in the City of London, said: “I admire the vital work of the Yalda Hakim Foundation to advance women’s education in Afghanistan. Oriel is delighted to be able to partner with them for this important scholarship. At the time the scholarship was conceived, the situation for women and girls in Afghanistan was already beginning to deteriorate. Oriel wanted to play a part in helping to provide a safe environment for a talented female Afghan student to come to the best university in the world, and to benefit from the educational experiences here.

“Watching the situation currently unfolding in Afghanistan is heart-breaking. We hope the scholarship will go ahead as planned. We also hope to expand the programme in the future to provide more women the same opportunity. This is more important now than ever.”

Image: Yalda Hakim. Credit: World Economic Forum / Benedikt von Loebell / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 via flickr.com


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