EIGHTEEN-YEAR-OLD Frehiwet Haftu is evidence that even students from the poorest and most difficult backgrounds can overcome learning obstacles given the right support.
The HSC student from Northmead Creative and Performing Arts High School came to Australia as a refugee from Ethiopia with her family in 2007. With the help of a free refugee tutoring program, she had the confidence to do extension maths and rise to the top of her ESL (English as a second language) class.
''Maths is more of an international subject but English can be hard,'' she said. ''I had to ask the tutors to help me with tough English words in my engineering assignments.''
She studies with about 30 other refugee students at the school's homework centre, where teachers offer tailored tutoring.
She only speaks her native Amharic and Tigrigna tongue with her father, who works at Mission Australia, and her mother, who is searching for employment. Frehiwet hopes to be accepted into a university degree in international studies next year.