The global refugee crisis is being exacerbated by the situation in Ukraine. The hardship faced by many Afghans looms large as well. According to Welcome.US, as many as 100,000 Afghans may resettle in the United States following the takeover of the country by the Taliban in August 2021. Afghan evacuees have received security and background checks at U.S. military bases overseas. In the United States, national resettlement agencies are providing services with resources from the Afghan Parolee Assistance program. The agencies provide training and oversight for institutional partners who in turn commit (among other duties) to supporting for a minimum of 90 days the integration of evacuees through the provision of core integration services. The services include: reception at the airport, safe and affordable housing for at least 6-12 months, household items and furnishings, adequate food and clothing, school enrollment for children, assistance accessing health services, finding employment, enrolling in public benefits, and financial assistance with basic living expenses. Individuals also have the opportunity to form Sponsor Circles to deliver the same types of services using private resources.
Ensuring that Afghan youths have the opportunity to benefit from higher education opportunities is also a need, but this is not part of the services provided by institutional partners working with national agencies under the Afghan Parolee Assistance program. There is however an opportunity for Catholic colleges and universities to support the resettlement effort by providing scholarships to qualified young Afghans who have sufficient mastery of English or can acquire it.
For this to work, at least two conditions are needed. First, colleges and universities need to make scholarships for Afghans evacuees available. Ideally, these scholarships should be full rides, with room and boards provided as needed depending on the location of beneficiaries. Colleges and universities would need to assess the ability of potential scholarship recipients to succeed in their course of study (whether this is for a Bachelor degree, a Master’s, a Certificate, or any other course of study), which would in turn require minimum credentials to be met and (to the extent feasible) verified, and additional individualized support to be made available as needed to beneficiaries during their studies.
Ensuring that Afghan youths have the opportunity to benefit from higher education opportunities is also a need...[and] an opportunity for Catholic colleges and universities to support the resettlement effort...
In addition, the availability of such scholarships for Afghan evacuees would need to be publicized so that evacuees who would be interested could apply, possibly with support provided to them to be able to satisfactorily complete their application. Outreach to Afghan evacuees through various channels, including by contacting national agencies and their institutional partners, could be conducted by civil society organizations in order to help colleges and universities get applications.
Notre Dame of Maryland University Provides Scholarships for Afghan Refugees
A great example of commitment to the refugees is that of Notre Dame of Maryland University. Together with Dr. Ademar Bechtold, a fellow Rotarian, we contacted the University President, Dr. Marylou Yam, to suggest providing scholarships for young Afghan women. Dr. Yam and her staff were enthusiastic about the idea of educating refugees because it resonated with the mission of the university. Founded in 1895, Notre Dame University of Maryland was the first Catholic college for women in the United States to award the baccalaureate degree. It has been leading the way in women's education ever since. Helping Afghan refugees is a great fit for the mission of the university, which is to “educate leaders to transform the world” in which the University challenges its students to “build inclusive communities”, “engage in service to others”, and “promote social responsibility”. While Notre Dame’s traditional undergraduate Women’s College offers the benefits of a focused, single-sex education, the University meets the needs of adult women and men with career-focused undergraduate and graduate programs designed around their real-life schedules.
Notre Dame of Maryland University has generously committed to provide two full tuition scholarships for young Afghan women. In a small way, Dr. Bechtold and I are now helping to make sure that Afghan youth in the Baltimore area and elsewhere are aware of this new opportunity by sharing information and contacting groups working with the refugees. If you know Afghan refugees who would be interested in the scholarship, or if you are considering offering such scholarships at your university and would like to know about our experience, please do not hesitate to contact me through the Global Catholic Education Project. Additional information about Notre Dame of Maryland University is available at www.ndm.edu.
Quentin Wodon is a Lead Economist at the World Bank. As part of his volunteer work, he manages the Global Catholic Education Project.