Refugee’s urge for knowledge pays off for others in same boat
A YOUNG Afghan student’s passion for learning has opened the way for other refugees who want to forge a new life in a free country.
Abdul Hekmat fled the Taliban- ruled Afghanistan in 2001. As a Hazara, an ethnic group attacked by the Taliban, he had been denied entry into the country’s universities.
He fled the country and landed in a refugee detention centre in Western Australia, where he spent five months.
The keen student of Western philosophy, politics, religion and history made his way to Sydney, where he started English classes.
In 2003 he applied to the University of Technology, Sydney for a place in its communications ( social inquiry) bachelor’s degree. However, as the holder of a temporary protection visa he was classed as a fee- paying international student. Without money, he had no chance.
UTS had been planning to introduce a TPV scholarship in 2005, but the eagerness of Hekmat and his supporters, including writers David Malouf and Tom Keneally, spurred the university into action and the scholarship was fast- tracked to start in 2004.
The scholarship was to cover all fees and administration costs. Hekmat estimated his was worth about $ 10,000.
He graduated in May and is doing his honours year and mentoring a Burmese journalism student who is among the latest crop of TPV scholarship recipients.
‘‘ I was very happy,’’ he said of attaining his scholarship. ‘‘ If it wasn’t for that scheme I wouldn’t have been able to study.
‘‘ I had a passion to study, but because of restrictions I wasn’t able to.’’
Hekmat was granted permanent residency in 2004 but UTS continued his scholarship to the end of his degree.
UTS equity and diversity unit director Ruth Thompson said the university had paid for 21 refugees, from Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Burma and Sierra Leone, to study under the scholarship.
‘‘ He [ Abdul] was the instigator of opportunities for other people,’’ Thompson says.
Applications are invited for a new round of scholarships in August.
Hekmat is working on a thesis on refugee centres in Australia and hopes to work with a non- government organisation or a community organisation after completing his studies.
For the benefit of mankind: Afghan refugee Abdul Hekmat was the first beneficiary of UTS’s temporary protection visa scholarship scheme and is now mentoring others on the same path