The 15th August 2022 marks the first anniversary of the taking of the Afghan capital Kabul by the Taliban. This led to the collapse of the Afghan government led by President Ghani. Dramatic images capturing these events were beamed around the world in the following days. Many people tried to flee the country. Afghan graduates also reached out to TU Berlin for help.
The Executive Board of TU Berlin lost no time in making funds available for emergency grants to enable Afghan IT graduates to travel to Germany as visiting scholars. Each grant provided by TU Berlin covers a period of six months and is worth more than 1200 euros per month. “Bridge IT – Integration program for IT alumni at risk at TU Berlin” is the largest self-financed project at a German university to provide support for Afghan academics.
A total of 62 persons have benefited from the funding. 43 were already in Germany. A further six alumni are currently preparing to leave Afghanistan or are waiting in another country to continue their journey on to Germany. Including family members, this means that some 220 people will be able to travel from Afghanistan to Germany with support provided by TU Berlin.
“Our support does not end with the arrival of alumni in Germany. The people who have been able to travel to Germany through the Bridge IT program continue to need our support. It is important that they are able to enter the labor market here or else pursue an academic career. We want to support them in this. This is part of what being a university means: forming networks, not only to share knowledge but also to provide help in exceptional circumstances. This sense of community and alumni is very much alive here at TU Berlin,” says TU president Professor Dr. Geraldine Rauch.
Responsibility for the scholarship holders lies with Transnational Education and International Knowledge Transfer, a newly created section within the Department of International Affairs at TU Berlin. In addition to general continuing education programs, such as language courses, and advising offers focusing on issues such as residency, two programs are being developed focusing on funding for academic careers and help with finding work in the German labor market. 146,400 euros have been obtained from the German Academic Exchange (DAAD) to fund these programs. However, this will expire at the end of the year due to current Federal Ministry of Education and Research cuts. Building on the experience of its current Afghan program, TU Berlin is planning further integration measures in the form of post-qualification and continuing education programs for academics both within and from crisis regions.
The focus of the support program on IT graduates is the result of TU Berlin’s involvement in academic development in Afghanistan over a number of years. Through its Center for International and Intercultural Communication (ZiiK), TU Berlin has been involved in the development of computer centers at Afghan universities over the past 20 years. As of 2021, more than 30,000 university members had received training in these computer centers. In addition, a number of scholarships were awarded to Afghan students and lecturers. In the field of computer science alone, 125 master's students graduated from TU Berlin and returned to their home country, where they taught or worked at government agencies and ministries until 15 August 2021.