Thursday, December 18, 2008


Erik Jensen, smh

December 18, 2008

AHMAD SULTANI spent the final year of high school studying under a quote from the Koran: "Make an attempt and I shall finish it," the print-out read, "God."

This week, the son of Afghan refugees found out how that attempt was finished. He was equal first in mathematics extension 1 and third in mathematics extension 2.

"It was seven in the morning on Sunday [when the Board of Studies telephoned]. I was a bit cranky until I found out what they were telling me," he said yesterday. "I wasn't expecting it but it was nice - probably one of the best feelings I've ever had."

Ahmad's was not the only success for refugees or their children in the past week.

In Victoria, Shaheen Hasmat was celebrating after being named dux of his high school and finishing with a tertiary entrance score of 99.8. Only five years earlier he was an Afghan refugee with almost no English.

In Cabramatta, in the room he shares with his younger brother, Vanno Tang was celebrating his HSC. He had a near-perfect score in the hardest two maths courses and topped NSW in Khmer.

"I didn't study much but in the last few days I did a lot," he said.

Three years earlier he had only a few sentences of English and was impressed by how different Australian desks were, compared to the benches at which he had worked in Cambodia. He said he was planning to study medicine.

"My family was very happy," Vanno said about his marks.

Parramatta High School, where Ahmad studied, is an average comprehensive school. About 15 per cent of students are refugees or the children of refugees. "Those who get here early enough show a lot of natural ability but also have a lot of determination," its principal, Peter McFarland, said of the refugee students.