Scholars recognised for outstanding accomplishments
Posted: 17 December 2020
Four Australia Awards scholars from South and West Asia received accolades at this year’s StudyAdelaide International Student Awards. The scholars were recognised for their outstanding academic and social accomplishments.
Rubayat Sarwar from Bangladesh received the award for Academic Excellence: Postgraduate (Coursework), and Najma Khaliq Khan from Pakistan and Hemlata Karki from Bhutan were Highly Commended in the same category. Preeti Maharjan from Nepal was also Highly Commended in the Community Engagement category.
The 10th annual StudyAdelaide International Student Awards were presented at the Adelaide Convention Centre on 16 October 2020 and were livestreamed for all to watch. The Governor of South Australia, His Excellency the Honourable Hieu Van Le AC, presented the awards. South Australian Minister for Trade and Investment, the Honourable Stephen Patterson MP, attended the ceremony to congratulate the award-winning students.
The four Australia Awards – South and West Asia scholars who were acknowledged at this prestigious ceremony share their motivations and reflections below.
Rubayat Sarwar from Bangladesh
Rubayat is studying a Master of Business (Finance) at Flinders University. Before she came to Australia on her Scholarship, she worked as the Deputy Director at Bangladesh Bank, the central bank of Bangladesh. “I always feel honoured that I have been contributing to such national-level financial policymaking authority,” Rubayat says about this experience.
She chose Australia for further study because of its “high quality of education and safe living” conditions. Receiving an Australia Awards Scholarship was a dream come true for Rubayat because she believes they are the “most prestigious” scholarships.
Rubayat attributes her achievement to her determination, her hard work and her desire to challenge cultural perceptions. “I come from a background where girls’ education can be seen as a burden,” she says. “However, from an early age, I felt mathematics and analytics were my strengths.”
Winning the Academic Excellence: Postgraduate (Coursework) Award “is a lifetime recognition”, shares Rubayat. The award recognises her exemplary grades, volunteer work, involvement in cultural activities, determination and hard work.
Rubayat shares that in the moment she received her certificate from the Governor of South Australia, she could only hear the word ‘Bangladesh’. “What a golden moment it was! It is beyond words to express that feeling for my motherland,” she says proudly.
In addition to her academic pursuits, Rubayat has also been active in her community as a résumé checker in the Flinders Career Hub, at the Flinders Community Market distributing food to her university friends, and volunteering with the Australian Red Cross. Rubayat also recently won the Don Dunstan Foundation Student Challenge: Creative Responses to Homelessness, using her artistic insight to depict a creative solution for homelessness in Adelaide.
Najma Khaliq Khan from Pakistan
Najma was Highly Commended in the Academic Excellence: Postgraduate (Coursework) category for her exemplary academic results while studying for a Master of Arts (Women’s Studies) at Flinders University. For Najma, receiving this recognition has been a “truly rewarding and humbling moment” in her education journey in Australia.
Najma has more than a decade of experience working in gender equality in Pakistan’s not-for-profit and development sector. Before commencing her Scholarship, she managed the gender portfolio for the Australian Government’s aid program in Pakistan, as well as Australia’s comprehensive Ending Violence Against Women program in Pakistan. A feminist and a development professional, Najma is a member, consultant and volunteer with various national and transnational feminist groups in Pakistan.
While working with the Australian Government in Pakistan, Najma gained insight into Australia’s commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment both domestically and globally. This motivated her to fulfil her academic aspirations in Australia, and receiving an Australia Awards Scholarship made it possible for her to do so. The interdisciplinary women’s studies program at Flinders University allowed her to tailor her courses to be “more aligned to the issues facing Pakistan and the overall region”.
Najma urges all scholars to try their best in every assignment, class and exam. She herself had to work very hard to adapt to new ways of learning. “I was full of apprehensions and self-doubt … enrolling into a two-year full-time academic degree program was quite intimidating,” she confides.
She advises scholars to think of university as a safe space to ask questions and express opinions. Najma also encourages scholars to be proactive and participatory, not only in their learning but also in the community.
“Take care of your mental and emotional health, take time out to do fun things at the campus or outside. Make friends, explore places and exercise,” Najma recommends.
Hemlata Karki from Bhutan
In Bhutan, Hemlata worked as a primary and secondary teacher in public schools, teaching history and mathematics. Currently, she is pursuing a Master of Education at the University of Adelaide. As a woman and a teacher, Hemlata believes that “higher education for women is crucial in empowering [women] and achieving economic independence”.
Hemlata shares that in Bhutan there are “few women with a master’s degree, not only in the teaching fraternity but in all fields”. She had always wanted to pursue higher education but did not have the financial capacity to support her aspirations. Then she found out about Australia Awards Scholarships. She applied, and received a Scholarship that enabled her to continue her studies in Australia.
“The Ministry of Education in Bhutan aspires to build a research culture among schoolteachers to make them reflective practitioners,” Hemlata says. This, along with her role as the secretary of the School Action Research Committee in her workplace, encouraged Hemlata to develop her capacity and choose research in her academic program.
“I am hopeful and confident that after my return [to Bhutan] I will be able to contribute to developing research capacity among teachers through professional development programs in schools,” she says.
Hemlata was Highly Commended in the Academic Excellence: Postgraduate (Coursework) category for her academic achievements. “I am certainly proud of receiving the award as this symbolises the achievement of all the women in my country,” she says. She believes that the award empowers not only her, but all women associated with her in her community. “The belief that I strongly hold about women’s higher education and leadership in creating a healthy society is further strengthened and rooted after receiving one of the prestigious awards,” she says enthusiastically.
Preeti Maharjan from Nepal
Preeti is pursuing a Master of Public Health at the University of Adelaide. She was Highly Commended in the Community Engagement category for contributing a significant amount of time and energy to help others. “I love to work for the community that I live in and getting an award for this is motivating and encouraging,” says Preeti.
In Nepal, Preeti was involved in laboratory and community-based research projects on neglected tropical diseases such as leprosy. While working at the Leprosy Mission, she visited satellite clinics and health camps in various rural areas of Nepal. Preeti had direct contact with patients and local communities and this ignited her interest in public health.
Preeti has actively participated in many organisations while living in Australia. Among other work, she has recorded data for the South Australian health department, volunteered at a camp for disadvantaged children, planted trees, and conducted group activities for aged care residents. At her university’s Rotaract Club, she has organised sessions for members on résumé writing, effective public speaking, mind mapping, and managing stress and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic. She has also volunteered at the Leprosy Mission in Australia.
Preeti started volunteering because she was “interested to know more about Australia and global cultures” and wanted to make friends outside of the classroom. Volunteering helped her meet local people and see more of Australia. Preeti adds that it also helped her “develop spoken communication, networking and teamwork skills”.
For scholars who would like to start volunteering, Preeti recommends beginning with university-based clubs and organisations. She advises scholars in South Australia to check the Volunteering SA/NT website for local volunteering opportunities.
Image at top of page: Scholar Rubayat Sarwar from Bangladesh received the award for Academic Excellence: Postgraduate (Coursework). In this picture, she is receiving the Award from the Governor of South Australia, His Excellency the Honourable Hieu Van Le AC