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92.9fm Regional News

  • Writer's pictureAlayna Fong

Ezidi students thrive at UNE

Fleeing brutality and violence in their homeland, younger members of Armidale’s Ezidi community are finding a supportive space in which to learn at university – preparing them for a very different future.

The University of New England now has 19 Ezidi students enrolled thanks to UNE’s Ezidi Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP).

And with arrivals under Australia’s Humanitarian Settlement Program set to grow by 200 annually in coming years, the demand for UNE places and assistance is also expected to grow.

"Our Ezidi students are eager to embrace new opportunities in Australia and all are very determined to succeed," says Dr Helen Harper from HEPPP.

Armidale is a key settlement site for the Ezidi community fleeing the genocide and persecution of ISIS in Iraq.

Many have spent four or more years in refugee camps, with many of the students experiencing interrupted education.

19-year-old law student Ishan Jarallah is among them.

She and her family endured freezing nights and scorching days without food or water in the mountains outside their home city of Shingal in Iraq, in the aftermath of targeted attacks by Islamic State in August 2014.

After almost four years in a refugee camp, Ishan, her parents and six siblings were relocated to Australia in May 2018 with the help of the UN.

They became just the third group of Ezidis to make a new home in Armidale.

“I was 14 and had not been to school for five years,” says Ishan, who was soon having intensive English lessons and enrolling in Armidale Secondary College.

“We all wanted a better life, a safer life and to have more chances to become educated. In Iraq you didn’t know what was going to happen to you. You didn’t have future plans; it was just living day-to-day.”

Ezidi students Suad Simoki and Ishan Jarallah.

Ishan dreams to be a human rights solicitor so she can help those like herself whose rights are not met.

“I did not know equality until I came to Australia and learnt about the rights of women,” said Ishan.

“Now I am looking for equality and for a future career in human rights law and justice. I want to work for an organisation like the United Nations to help others escaping injustice and for the rights of women.”

As the first person in her family to attend university, Ishan has particularly appreciated the scholarship and tutoring support she has received from HEPPP.

“Studying law is one of the hardest things in my life and without the ability to earn money while I study, getting the study materials is difficult.

“But HEPPP help us with everything. They help us apply for scholarships; they cover our textbook costs and help us apply for study help programs like HECS.

“It has made a huge difference not just for me but for every single Ezidi student at UNE.”

Today, UNE support for Ezidi students includes help with careers information, admissions, and enrolment, HECS administration and subject selection, along with tutorial sessions.

“The Ezidi community is not one homogenous population,” said Project Officer Henry Faithfull.

“Some are from rural areas, while others come from cities and had access to higher education in Iraq. Everyone’s needs are different.”

Dr Harper added that educating UNE staff about the unique needs of the students has also built UNE’s capacity to effectively support them.

“We make contact with the students’ lecturers so they can understand their backgrounds. This helps everyone’s learning experience in a positive way.

“Knowing their background could simply mean the lecturer knows to clarify things for the Ezidi students so they can keep up with the rest of the cohort.”

HEPPP is funded by the Federal Government to provide tertiary education institutes with the ability to support students from low socio-economic backgrounds in furthering their education.

UNE has been running HEPPP projects to assist students achieve since 2013.


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