Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Will To Learn And To Succeed

"I'd spend all day at school not knowing what the teachers were talking about -- Shakespeare and essays -- and then I'd go home and try to find out on the Internet what an essay is."
"I don't think I can say I made it. I can say we made it. I feel this graduation diploma, this ceremony, belongs to us, not to me We worked as a chain to get here ... No one ever turned me down when I needed help. No one ever shut the door."
"I will keep my father in mind for sure because he wanted to see this, but his spirit, his love, is still with me. I'll also be thinking about all those girls who don't have the same opportunity I have: It's quite hard when you want something and can't accomplish it. I know I'm one of the luckiest."
Roya Shams, Afghan schoolgirl, Ottawa
Royal Shams will attend U of O next year on a full scholarship.
Roya Shams will attend U of O next year on a full scholarship.
Wayne Cuddington / Ottawa Citizen
"I feel there's a lot of her that is trying to do her father proud, that his death was not in vain, that she's going to make a difference in this world. So she's intense ... She has a higher calling."
"To take a student like Roya, with a limited education, and to make it happen [schooling in Canada] was a huge task -- but that's the commitment we made."
"I think we've learned a lot with Roya about what we're capable of; I think Roya showed us all how you can be successful by being persistent against all odds."
Padme Raina, assistant director of boarding admissions, Ashbury College, Ottawa

She's a feisty little thing. She will stand up for what she believes in and can be extremely stubborn, but it's all for a good cause. You have to admire how far she's come in the time she's been with us."
"I was able to support her through some of those tough times when she missed home and was still grieving for her father, or wasn't sleeping well.  She would have nightmares, reliving Kandahar."
"It has been a long journey and it has been an eye opener for a lot of us, but I think she's done herself proud."
Tui Noonan, nurse, Ashbury College
The entire world knows the details of Malala Yousafzai's entry into the conscience of those who feel that girls and women should have equal status in any society. Malala, on her way home from school one day, was singled out by Pakistan's Taliban to be destroyed, for her voice and her activism on behalf of girls entitled to an education offended their Islamist sensibilities. Malala had a strong-minded father who encouraged her sense of entitlement and wanted an education for his daughter. Malala has written a book detailing the experiences of her young life, and she was honoured by the Nobel Committee as a Laureate.

Perhaps Roya Shams is on her way to achieving similar greatness in her determination to make something of herself and her aspiration to become a voice and a motivating pendulum for change. Heading for university in the fall through the award of a full scholarship at University of Ottawa, she plans to study international development. Her goal is to pursue a degree in international law to lend herself to the fight to ensure that girls and women will no longer be denied their human rights. "Before, I had the vision and no tools. Now, I have the vision and the tools", she has stated.

Roya's father worked hard to see that his wife and daughters were educated. Like Malala's father, he felt that girls and women were equal in value to boys and men, and should be treated accordingly, given full opportunities to meet their destiny through providing them with the most basic of human rights and entitlements. Roya's father's attitude did not reflect that of the average Afghan male, but in time that may change, and Roya plans to be an agent for that change. Her father, a police commander, was murdered by the Taliban, and Roya might have been next in line for the same treatment.

A reporter on world affairs, journalist Paul Watson, took steps to bring her to Canada, with the assistance of Michael Cooke, editor of the newspaper that Mr. Watson worked for. Ashbury College, a private boarding school, offered a bursary for Roya, and to place her within their student body. The very sparsely basic English she had learned in Afghanistan barely served her academically, so she was exposed to an intensive language support protocol to enable her to gain the confidence due her, and to achiever the level of scholarship required to graduate.

Roya struggled to live within a new culture unlike her own. She lived with New Zealander Tui Noonan during the school year. Dealing with homesickness, sleepless nights and mourning for her father took its toll on the young girl. To further assist the Afghan teen on her trajectory toward her future, a fund was set up, administered by Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, which collects donations to pay for Roya's education and living expenses in Canada.

A tribute to her fighting spirit determined to surmount all odds, and to the father who envisioned another kind of life entirely for his daughter.

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