It will shortly be the anniversary of a day Zahra A., Huma Z., Ahmed Shoaib Joya and Mohammad Mustafa Naier* will never forget. On 15th August 2021 the Afghan government fell to the Taliban. The four alumni of the Computer Science master’s program run by the Center for International and Intercultural Communication (ZiiK) at TU Berlin fled their offices in fear of their lives, went partly into hiding, and from one day to the next lost not only their jobs but also the sense of hope they had carried back with them to their homeland after completing their studies in Berlin.
The TU Berlin Executive Board lost no time in making funding available for emergency grants to enable IT alumni to travel as visiting scholars from Afghanistan to Germany. Each grant provided by TU Berlin covers a period of six months and is worth more than 1200 euros per month. This makes “Bridge IT – Integration program for IT alumni at risk at TU Berlin” the largest self-financed project at a German university to provide support for Afghan academics.
“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.
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 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.
The Center for International and Intercultural Communication has been involved in development work in the IT sector in Afghanistan over the past 20 years and its activities include coordinating the development of a number of IT centers. The Center is headed by Dr. Nazir Peroz, who has striven tirelessly with his former colleagues to build a bridge to Germany to help TU Berlin alumni to escape from Afghanistan. The organization of support measures is the responsibility of the?.
The scholarship holders now have the chance to find work as IT specialists or continue their academic careers in Germany. Support is coordinated by the newly formed section??within the Department of International Affairs. 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. “We have already been able to successfully recruit supervisors for doctoral studies and one scholarship holder even received a PhD scholarship from the?,” says Dr. Ulrike Hillemann-Delaney, director of the Department of International Affairs. “However, we are looking for other evaluators to officially take over the role of supervisor.” To finance the accompanying program, funding of 146,400 euros was successfully obtained from the DAAD and the Department of International Affairs at TU Berlin plans to design further integration measures through post-qualification and continuing education programs for academics in and from crisis regions as well as apply for funding for this purpose.
In the following reports Zahra A., Huma Z., Ahmad Shoaib Joya and Mohammad Mustafa Naier discuss their current situation.