Zahra Abdul Razaq is the first Afghan girl in the UAE to top a subject in an Indian school.

The 17-year-old got a centum in Mass Media studies in the recently released CBSE board examination results.

While the impact of certain extremist groups’ severe restrictions on education for Afghan women and girls has been extensively recorded, the decision made by her family to relocate to the UAE has significantly enriched this girl’s life.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, the student who got an overall score of 93 per cent in the CBSE exams, said, “Honestly, looking at how my exams went, I was expecting to score above 90 per cent. But I was expecting a centum in Political Science, I got a 97 in that. I am thrilled beyond belief that I got it in Mass Media. I am now looking into universities in Dubai."

"I would first like to complete my Bachelor's in Journalism or Mass Media and then pursue higher studies. Following this, I wish to work in Dubai because I was born and raised here so I owe a lot to this country. Giving back is one of my priorities.”

State of girls' education in Afghanistan

The young adult also highlighted her enthusiasm about delving into stories from her native country and exploring the myriad facets of that world and the current happenings there.

“I would love to cover stories from Afghanistan and the perspective of the locals as to what is happening in that country. Education is still legally banned in Afghanistan, and not much has changed with online schools. While I can score such high marks, there are girls my age, in my home country, who are denied exactly this,” said the student of GEMS Our Own English High School, Dubai.

A published author

Originally hailing from Kabul, the girl was born and raised in Dubai.

In her last two years in high school, she even started a campaign in her institution about the landlocked country. “I have been sharing news, information, and updates about Afghanistan. I have dedicated several of my projects in school to Afghanistan.”

The youngster is also a published author having penned a book titled, 'Secrets of Teens', which explores the life of a girl navigating immigration. Additionally, she is also the recipient of the GEMS Platinum Jubilee Scholarship, which awards 70 students from 43 GEMS schools operating in the UAE one whole year of 100 per cent free tuition fees.

Vision of grandparents, parents

The Dubai resident, who has been attending this school since kindergarten, said she is, “proud to have been part of the spectacular school”. Highlighting the role of her parents and grandparents who earlier lived in Kabul, she added, “My grandparents were strong advocates for education in a highly conservative society where education for girls was considered a waste of time. But their determination to develop changed our lives.”

Zahra’s parents moved from Afghanistan to the UAE in 2001. She calls them her “pillars”. She stressed her parents work hard to give them the quality of life that she and her siblings enjoy today. “My mother always tells me that I need to have both ‘taaleem’ and ‘tarbeyah’, which translates to education, refinement, and enlightenment. This is something that has stuck to me.”

Filled with gratitude, she expressed thanks to her school. “My teachers and school have played a critical role in my life.”

“My siblings also went to Indian curriculum schools. Indians are diligent and in my country they are also known for their intellectual prowess. Growing up alongside individuals who are sincere and hardworking and exhibit a drive for self-improvement has been a blessing for me,” added Zahra.

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