Afghani refugee wins nursing scholarship

TERTIARY FIRST: Nida Alizadah, an Afghani-born student, has won a scholarship for her nursing studies at Christchurch ...
KIRK HARGREAVES

TERTIARY FIRST: Nida Alizadah, an Afghani-born student, has won a scholarship for her nursing studies at Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology.

Afghani nursing student Nida Alizadah is the first woman in her family to attend a tertiary institution.

Her father fled Afghanistan after being threatened by the Taliban in 2001.

He was granted asylum in New Zealand, along with 150 other Afghans, but it was another three years before his family - including Nida - could join him.

Last month, the 20-year-old was one of four people granted a $1500 nursing scholarship by primary health organisation Pegasus Health, having just completed her first year of a health science degree at Christchurch Polytech Institute of Technology.

Although aged only 10 when she arrived in Christchurch, Alizadah's war-torn homeland memories have played a pivotal role in her choice of study.

"Because I come from a different country, and have different experiences, speak a different language and come from a different religion, I understand the needs of people."

Alizadah said the scholarship would help her complete her studies and be an inspiration to the next generation of Afghani girls.

Since arriving in New Zealand, her mother had come to appreciate the value of education for girls.

News of the scholarship was a huge surprise, but was followed by celebration with her parents and five brothers.

"I could see the joy in their eyes. Especially my mother, coming from Afghanistan under the Taliban, the girls were banned from school."

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Alizadah has become an educational leader in her own community and has been teaching Farsi, her home language, to young Afghani migrants each Sunday.

Keeping the language alive was a way to keep connected to Afghanistan and give young people the benefits of being bilingual.

Language and cultural barriers could keep New Zealand's public health system beyond the reach of new migrants, she said.

"For example, a lot of women are hesitant to go and be treated by a male GP and a male would be hesitant to see a female GP for religious reasons."

Although New Zealanders had a right to health care, new migrants were not always aware of that.

"They need a lot of interpreters and people from the same ethnic background to be involved in the health care system."

Dad was a Tampa asylum seeker

Nida Alizadah's father was one of 150 asylum seekers taken in by New Zealand after a dramatic diplomatic dispute between Australia and Norway in 2001.

Nematullah Alizadah fled Afghanistan after the Taleban took control of the country.

Along with 437 other mainly Afghani asylum-seekers, Alizadah boarded a fishing vessel in Indonesia bound for Australia.

However, the boat became stranded near Christmas Island and was rescued by a Norwegian freighter, the MV Tampa.

Over the next five days Australian, Norwegian and Indonesian officials argued about which country was responsible for them.

The condition of the asylum seekers deteriorated and the Tampa's medical officer reported they were dehydrated and malnourished.

The New Zealand Government agreed to accept 150 of the refugees and, in 2004, asylum was extended to their families.

Alizadah's wife had taken their children to Iran but in 2004 the family was reunited in Christchurch.

 - The Press

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