From the little known district of Aliabad in Kunduz province in northern Afghanistan, Matiullah, a taxi driver’s son, had already proved his mettle in the common competitive test Konkor examination for undergraduate admission in 2010. After graduating with a degree in computer science from Baghlan University in the nearby province, he was among the select few to come to India to pursue masters in 2019 as a result of the coordination between the governments of the two countries.
While some of the Afghan students returned to their homeland in July this year after completing their course, destiny held back Matiullah. The pandemic delayed the completion of his two-year PG programme, but in a way, it came as a blessing, because it saved him from the trauma of Taliban rule. “I will not go to Afghanistan until the situation becomes normal. My family is safe there and I am in contact with them. They have advised me to stay in India,” Matiullah told TOI on Tuesday morning.
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Matiullah had dreamed of becoming a technocrat once he returned to his motherland. In a country like Afghanistan, where the majority is unlettered, technocrats are regarded as valuable assets. He was pained to see engineers, doctors and professionals fleeing Afghanistan. “I heard about the evacuation of Afghans by the Indian government and this was a great moment. I started feeling safer,” said Matiullah.
The Taliban started getting strong in Kunduz a couple of years ago. They were suspicious of government employees. Matiullah at that time was studying in India. “The Taliban does not oppose students going to other countries to study, at least for the boys,” he said.
“It’s painful to hear about the chaos just when I was planning to return home after completing the final year of my course. Now I can just pray that the situation improves soon,” he added.
Most foreign students come to central government institutions in the northeast since these institutes offer fellowships. But state universities pushed hard to get some overseas students recently with the help of ICCR, an autonomous body under the administrative control of the Union external affairs ministry.
“As GU is getting more exposure at the international level, foreign students are showing interest to study here under the Indian government’s scholarship. Earlier, scholars mainly came to study in our university at a personal level,” said Ratul Mahanta, coordinator at GU Office of International Relations.
ICCR regional director Madhur Kankana Roy said that measures have been taken to provide safety and security to Afghan students. “These students are scholarship holders. They cannot go back to their country without completing their courses,” she said, adding that as per the government of India’s decision on Afghan students, ICCR will proceed when they complete their tenure.