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AUW Plans Placement of All 148 Afghan Students in Colleges and Universities

Posted on September 15, 2021

Written by AUW

Chittagong, September 15, 2021

Below we provide an update on matters relating to AUW efforts in support of Afghan women’s education.

I.  UPDATE ON AUW AFGHAN STUDENT EVACUATION & PLACEMENT; ACCELERATING AUW’s COMMITMENT TO WOMEN’s EDUCATION

All of our 148 Afghan students and alumnae (and a few of their sisters) who were evacuated out of Kabul are now in Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, USA alongside 13,000 others from Afghanistan who have also found temporary shelter there in the aftermath of the Taliban capture of Afghanistan.  The AUW 148 have found remarkably warm care and affection at Fort McCoy under the aegis of the US Foreign Service Officer, Ms. Holly Kirking Loomis, the Deputy Team Lead of the Afghanistan Task Force at Fort McCoy.  In about two weeks, the AUW 148 will have completed their required intake interviews (administered by the International Rescue Committee), biometric registrations, health evaluations, and adjustments to their residency status in the US in accordance with the rules and regulations of the US Government Department of Homeland Security.

It is expected that under existing government rules, the AUW 148 will be each eligible for a modest stipend from the US Government for the first three months of their stay outside of Fort McCoy. The International Organization of Migration (IOM) is handling the arrangements for their resettlement.  AUW Support Foundation staff and our most generous and kind counsels from the law firm of Mayer Brown led by Marcia Goodman and Charles Hallab are in almost daily contact with the “Seven Sister Leaders”, who earlier bravely navigated the AUW 148 through the five-day ordeal of getting through all the Taliban checkpoints and, finally, into the airport in Kabul, and who continue to provide exemplary leadership to all the assembled AUW 148 in Fort McCoy and respond to questions and needs as they arise.

A.   Placement of AUW Afghan Women in US Colleges & Universities

We have been at work in arranging fully funded placements for each member of the AUW 148 in US colleges and universities for the completion of their studies.  AUW 148 includes 47 Pathways for Promise and Access Academy students and 85 undergraduates.  There are several alumnae as are sisters of our students and alumnae who have no independent affiliation with AUW in the group.  We have received promising responses from a number of US colleges and universities, including Arizona State University led by President Michael Crow, Brown University, Cornell University, the University of Delaware, Suffolk University, University of North Carolina – Charlotte, Southern New Hampshire University, Cornell College, and Columbia College in the placement of our undergraduates in their school’s programs.  The University of Delaware has a Pathways for Promise-like college preparatory program leading to undergraduate studies.  We expect many of our Pathways/Access students to enroll at the University of Delaware as we also explore options with other members of UCIEP (University & College Intensive English Program) consortium which offer similar trajectories for undergraduate education.  We welcome any additional offers of sponsorship of our students from US universities.  To avoid risks of potential isolation of the students when they are distributed among various US colleges, we have urged each sponsoring institution to consider enrolling at least five students from our AUW 148 into their institution.  We will not send less than five Afghan students to any one sponsoring university.

B.   Legal Counsel and Assistance to AUW Women

Nearly fifteen top US law firms have agreed (or, have nearly agreed) to assign lawyers from their respective firms to serve on a pro bono basis in representing each of the AUW 148 in adjusting to their US residency status.  We have invited the law clinics at Harvard Law School and Yale Law School (Dean Heather Gerken) to also assist in this process.  Our long-time pro bono legal counsel, the firm of Mayer Brown, is coordinating the matching of pro bono lawyers assigned by different law firms with our students, training of all participating lawyers in the relevant aspects of the law, and monitoring the process that will ensue until the successful adjustment to the students’ status is completed.

C.   Mentoring & Mental Health Support

We are inviting expressions of interest from members of the broader AUW Global Community to volunteer to mentor and otherwise counsel the AUW 148 who have made their journeys out of Afghanistan.  No transition of this type can be easy; but it can be made somewhat more bearable through the support of an empathetic community.  We hope you will join us in supporting our AUW 148 in such a positive way.  If you would like to volunteer as a mentor, please contact:  Daisy Nicholas at Daisy.Nicholas(at)asian-university.org.  She will provide you with additional details on what would be involved in taking on this role.

We are exploring options for providing mental health support to the AUW 148, although, so far, we have not found a systematic way to extend such services. Should you have ideas or other suggestions, please contact:  Kali Guise at Kali.Guise(at)asian-university.org.

II. LOOKING FURTHER AHEAD

A.    New Recruitment of Students from Afghanistan

We have reached out to the new interim government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to allow AUW to recruit 500 or more new students for entry into the January 2022 term, drawn from all 34 provinces of the country under an amended Memorandum of Understanding between AUW and the Afghan Government which was originally entered into 2010.

Although the policies on female education under the new regime have not yet been enunciated and the Afghan passport office remains closed and no new passports are being issued until reportedly a determination is made on a new name for the State itself, we are hopeful that we will succeed in achieving and even surpassing our enrollment goal.  AUW has the distinct advantage in this case of being an all-women’s university and being located in a secular but Muslim-majority country.  Already AUW Admissions Office has received an extraordinarily large number of applications for admission.  We hope to accelerate the review of applications received and carry out the testing and interview process on a rolling basis with the target of offering admission to at least 500 candidates by the end of November 2021.  We are consulting with officials and friends in the Governments of Bangladesh, Qatar, Pakistan and Turkey as we plan this significant campaign.

B.   Creating an AUW Graduate School of Education & Policy Analysis

We are preparing a proposal for review by the AUW Teaching & Learning Committee led by Professor Elena Popa, subject to further review and approval by the University’s Academic Council chaired by Vice Chancellor Dr. Nirmala Rao, OBE, FacSS.  This proposal will also be reviewed by the Board of Trustees led by the Bangladesh Education Minister and Former Foreign Minister Dr. Dipu Moni and could lead to the establishment of AUW’s first graduate program to be launched in January 2022, subject to the requisite internal AUW approvals.

This program will enable AUW Afghan graduates, among others, who may not wish to or who may not be able to return to Afghanistan immediately following their graduation from AUW, to pursue a graduate degree in education and policy analysis. They will have an opportunity to acquire the necessary skills and experience in germinating the creation of and leading new schools for adolescent girls living in the refugee camps sheltering millions of Afghans in its neighboring countries – a phenomenon that is now likely to see further surges.

We are grateful for the assistance of faculty from Johns Hopkins University (USA), California State University – Dominguez Hills (USA), Boston College (USA), Cornell University (USA), the University of Manchester (UK), and others for offering their time and expertise to AUW as we strive to pull such a program together in record time.

C.   Women Teaching Women, Women Learning from Women (WTW-WLW)

We are developing a concept for a new initiative styled as Women Teaching Women, Women Learning from Women (WTW-WLW) that will facilitate engagement of AUW graduates in creating a new network of secondary schools for girls across communities, including in communities sheltering refugees and other displaced communities.  A meeting with UNHCR Representatives is planned to be held in Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh on September 18, 2021 to further explore these proposals.

III.  RESOURCE MOBILIZATION

AUW is seeking the support of all its allies in mobilizing both the financial and material resources as well as institutional and knowledge partnerships that will be crucial in planning and executing the programs envisioned here.

To this end, a Roundtable for Advancing Women’s Education, is being planned to be held in New York at the end of October 2021.

With all best wishes,

Sincerely,

Kamal Ahmad
Founder & Trustee
Asian University for Women