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Refugee mates top of the class


Born in the same area of Afghanistan, Nemad Nowrozi and Shamsullah Haidari didn’t actually meet each other until they started school a world away at St Paul’s College in Adelaide.

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In a classic ‘rags to riches’ story, the young boys became great friends who pushed each other academically and finished Year 12 as the Gilles Plains school’s top two students.

When they received their SACE results in December they were overwhelmed to find they had achieved the honours of Dux (Nemad, 96.25) and Proxime Accessit (Sham, 95.6) and both are now looking forward to university studies and “making their families proud”.

Both tell the stories how as Hazaras their families were forced to leave eastern Afghanistan after the Taliban began its reign of terror. Sham and Nemad were only toddlers when their fathers left their families in search of a country where they could all live safely. The men made their way to Indonesia, travelling in dangerous circumstances with other refugees by boat and arriving in 2001.

Eventually in 2006 they were able to bring their families, who were now living in Pakistan, to join them in a country where they could be safe and make their home.

Nemad recalled his first impressions of arriving in Australia.

“When I first came to Adelaide, I was awestruck by the advancement in infrastructure, technological systems and overall the lifestyle of what South Australians were exposed to,” Nemad said.

For Sham, learning a new language was his first priority and he was extremely motivated to do well in school.

“One factor has always helped me to push myself and never give up, and that is that I don’t want to let my parents down,” Sham said.

“When I first met Nemad our vibes and sense of humour perfectly matched and we almost connected instantly.

“However, what bonded a true friendship between us was the fact that both of our parents had risked their lives to provide an opportunity for us to become successful in any path we choose. For this reason Nemad and I always seek to unlock our true potential and always aim high!”

Likewise, Nemad said Sham’s similar background meant they could support each other throughout their secondary studies. He also acknowledged others in their friendship group – Mohammad Shafaie, Rasoul and Sadegh Heidari, Gordan Tang and Param Patel – who had similar refugee experiences and provided “so much inspiration”.

“You have the same level of respect for each other and the goals you wish to accomplish. There is always a constant push for achieving excellence and an enthusiastic attitude for success because we have been given such an opportunity to live and study in a country such as Australia.”

In 2018, Nemad hopes to study a double degree in computer science (Honours) and engineering (design and technology) at Flinders University, but has bigger plans in the longer term.

“Given that I have been a part of two very different countries, and ways of life, I wish one day that I can leave the world a better place than what I had found it in… and I hope to do this by pursuing entrepreneurial and philanthropic endeavours.”

Sham is planning on studying a double degree of electric and electronic engineering, and mathematical and computer science at the University of Adelaide.

“I look forward to continuing my friendship with Nemad and hopefully end up doing great things for our families and this world,” he said.



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