Refugee students receive much needed scholarships

Students in seven schools have received financial support from Allianz and Settlement Services International

Image: Scholarship recipient Steven Asman with Cabramatta High School teacher Raeleen Lawrence

For Cabramatta High School Year 12 student Steven Asman it has been a long journey to his HSC.

Steven fled Iraq with his family in 2015 to Lebanon before beginning his schooling three years ago in Australia with little English, but a lot of ambition.

This month his dedication to his studies to his studies was rewarded when he became one of several refugee students in NSW to win a scholarship from Allianz Australia and Settlement Services International.

Steven has said the scholarship money would help him buy an iPad and books to help him complete his HSC.

“I’m really happy to receive the scholarship. As soon as I found out, I started planning how to use it to get things to help me with my studies,” he said.

Steven is hoping to study medicine next year, with his eyes set on becoming a surgeon.

“I’m not interested in an office job, and studying biology has made me really interested in the human body”, he said, noting that he will be the first in his family with a university qualification when he succeeds with the help of his new resources.

Fellow scholarship recipient, former Beverly Hills Girls High School student Roaa Ahmed finished her HSC last year, topping the State in Arabic Extension.

“As a refugee and as a person who didn’t have basic human rights such as the right to live and express my opinions freely, I am strongly determined to study journalism,” the young woman who fled Egypt, aged 10, said.

“Our world is full of injustices and it’s now the time to give humans and specifically women and children the ability to practise their basic human rights, including access to education and living without fear.”

Cabramatta High School teacher Raeleen Lawrence said refugee students do not have computers at home, and receiving a scholarship is life changing.

“We have examples of kids doing essays on a smart phone, so being able to buy a device has an enormous impact on their ability to study,” she said.

The Allianz and Settlement Services International (SSI) scholarships are designed to directly support people from refugee backgrounds to minimise the financial barriers they experience in secondary school, vocational education and training, university, skills and qualifications recognition.

While education is a critical step for all young Australians to establish rewarding careers, many young people of refugee backgrounds face significant financial barriers to accessing that education.

SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis said the scholarships are about making sure there are opportunities to learn, work and thrive, particularly in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, where education has been interrupted by lockdowns.

“As schools and other education institutes moved online over the last two years, we saw how a lack of access to technology or digital literacy was negatively affecting newly arrived students. With the help of organisations like Allianz and other partners in the community, we hope to close that divide and support students as they continue their education,” she said.

Along with students at Cabramatta High School, scholarships were also awarded to refugee students at Miller Technical High School, Beverley Hills Girls High School, Waratah Technical Campus, Chester Hill High School, Orana High School (Coffs Harbour) and Bankstown Senior College.

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