Zainab Kaabi was an Iraqi refugee born in Iran, who arrived in Australia in 2000 as an asylum seeker.
After 6 months in Woomera, her family settled in Sydney on temporary protection visas. By the end of 2000 she had enrolled at Holroyd High School in Sydney’s south west.
She was enrolled for three terms in the Intensive English Centre at Holroyd High and then entered year 11. Despite the fact she was still mastering English, after only one term she was equal third in the year. But early in year 12, Zainab visited her Principal, Dorothy Hoddinott, to say that she would have to drop out of her studies as her Centrelink payment ceased at 18. Her family simply could not afford for her to stay at school. She could not stay and complete her HSC.
Dorothy refused to let her star pupil go. She dug into her own pockets, then into her friends’ pockets and finally set up a Trust fund in Zainab’s name. Zainab went on to gain a Bachelor’s Degree in Medical Sciences from Macquarie University and has now completed a second degree – a Bachelor of Pharmacy at Sydney University.
‘Friends of Zainab’ has since helped many refugee students in the public education system. The scholarship pays for education expenses, including internet connection, technology expenses and elective course fees. Over 50 refugee students from across NSW have received financial support.
This year, an inspirational young man, Bashir Yousufi, received a Special Commendation of the ‘Friends of Zainab’ scholarship. Bashir fled Afghanistan and came to Australia on his own when he only 13 years old. When he first arrived in Australia he spent a year in detention. He is a strong advocate for children rights, representing Australia in Geneva at the Discussion for the Committee on the Rights of the Child. He is now the Vice Captain of his school and in his final year completing his HSC.
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