Uni summer program targeting disadvantaged youth


A university program is targeting children from low socio-economic backgrounds with the hopes of getting more young people into university education.

High-school students Rashad Nadir and Kiarha Donnelly could be among the next generation of Australian doctors and designers.

As part of a two-week summer school program at the University of Technology Sydney, Rashad has been learning how to suture, while Kiarha has been learning how to screen print.

Rashad, who fled Afghanistan for Australia with his family when he was 12, admitted he was nervous about university.

"Summer school, I would just keep telling myself, 'oh who's going to be there? What are the teachers? I would just keep telling myself you're not fitting in," Rashad said.

Indigenous student Kiarha said she also was anxious because she didn't know what to expect.

"It seemed pretty intimidating at first with everybody studying and all that," she said.

Summer Schools like this one at UTS were aimed at getting young people familiar with the university environment.

"I see a huge change. They've become extremely confident."

"The main thing is building aspirations, so university doesn't become sort of a scary thing that they haven't experienced before," Program Coordinator Bilquis Ghani said.

She said the courses were designed to build confidence in people from low socio-economic backgrounds.

In 2009, the Australian government set a target to raise the proportion of undergraduate students who are from a low socio-economic background from 15 to 20 per cent by 2020.

But participation rates haven't changed.

"Anyone who wants to go university should be able to go to university, so university isn't for everyone, but if a child or a student doesn't go to university it shouldn't be because they feel like it's not a place for them. We want to demystify university for them, by bringing them on to campus," Ms Ghani said.

It's working for 17-year-old Rashad.

He said his mother Sima - a trained midwife - was his inspiration for selecting the course in medicine, and he's making her proud.

"I'm very proud that my sons can study in a good school, in a peaceful good country," Sima said.

Rashad's brother Ehsan also attended summer school last year, and said the course had encouraged him to aim high.

Kiarha Donnelly said her mother had also encouraged her to go to university.

"If I go to uni, then I would be the first in my family to go to un," she said. "I want to go to uni and my mum wants me to go to uni as well."

Helen Apostle is a coordinator at Kiarha and Rashad's school, Chester Hill High, in Sydney's west.

She said her students have come a long way.

"I see a huge change. They've become extremely confident and they all say, 'Miss, we all want to attend university', and now they've got higher aspirations."

Source: SBS

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