Essay competition runner-up Zakieh

JUST 18 months ago, Zakieh Rasouli couldn’t speak a word of English. Now, she’s the runner up in a national English essay competition.

The 14-year-old Orara High School student achieved the amazing feat after coming to Australia as an Afghani refugee in 2009.

“When I was very young my mother and I left because of the war to live in Iran,” Zakieh said.

“We were there for 13 years and it was safer but it was nowhere near as good as Australia – in Iran we could not do anything the Iranian people did because we were not nationals.

“When we found out we were coming to Australia, we were so happy.”

Showing her appreciation for being in a free, democratic country, Zakieh worked hard to learn English and do well at school.

“At first it was very difficult because I didn’t know any English and there are no other Afghani people here at all,” she said.

“But my teachers helped me to learn and supported me and I have a lot of friends who didn’t laugh when I got something wrong.”

Her dedication and amazing progress led teachers to encourage her to enter Oxfam’s Refugee Realities writing competition and although she never thought she would win, Zakieh said she saw the competition as “a good chance to try”.

“When they emailed me and said I had won the runner-up, I just couldn’t believe it,” she said.

“I was very happy.”

Zakieh was flown to Canberra to receive her certificate in a special ceremony last week.

She will give a speech at the school during Refugee Week next week.

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