Fleeing religious persecution in Algeria, young student Kenza Lina and her family found solace on the Maltese Islands. And with the help of the Verdala International School’s Refugee Scholarship Fund, Kenza is now able to pursue her academic study of the sciences at one of Malta’s most prestigious educational institutions
Religious persecution led her parents away from the native family home in Algeria, to seek solace on Malta’s sister island of Gozo. But young student Kenza Lina has managed to turn what could have been a setback into an exciting opportunity.
Arriving in Malta in the summer of 2016, the family first enrolled Kenza into the Bishops Conservatory in Gozo. But on the advice of the head of school, Kenza decided to apply for a special scholarship offered by the Verdala International School in Malta.
“I was pretty excited to hear about this at first, though I was also worried that I didn’t have all the right paperwork to apply. Thankfully, the school managed to take care of all of that. It seemed too good to be true at the time, so I was so happy to get in,” Kenza tells me over a video call, joined by her two parents – her father Mustapha and her mother Akila.
Kenza Lina is the recipient of the Verdala International School’s Refugee Scholarship Fund (VISFund), which offers academically deserving students the chance to complete an International Baccalaureate at Verdala International School, whose ultimate aim is to assist the student in furthering their studies in higher or tertiary education.
The scholarship covers all the relevant costs, with a comprehensive grant that includes academic fees, school lunch, exam fees, field excursions and after-school vocational activities.
UNHCR Malta aided the VISFund board in the selection process, by providing key contextual information about refugees and asylum seekers in Malta.
Kenza was certainly thrilled to be granted this opportunity, building on her love of mathematics, biology and chemistry in a new environment that allowed for her talents to thrive.
“I really like my biology teacher! The lessons are really easy to follow because they explain things so well,” Kenza says, adding that her dream of one day becoming a doctor is what lies behind her attraction to biology as a school subject.
“But I also liked maths ever since I first started attending school back in Algeria. Maths is interesting to me because you can always get a clear answer whenever you manage to work out a sum or equation.”
Despite her enthusiastic academic interests however, Kenza also leads an active social life outside of school, even if she has to split her time between Malta – where the school is based – and Gozo, where she stays with her parents during weekends.
“In Malta, I met the best people I could possibly meet”
“I think it’s great that the school managed to find accommodation for me in Malta,” Kenza says, clearly appreciating yet another ancillary benefit of having secured the Verdala scholarship.
When not studying, Kenza enjoys skateboarding and spending time with her friends in one of the parks in Gozo’s capital city of Victoria. Pre-pandemic, she would also be a regular cinema-goer, and she’ll hopefully be able to indulge in that habit once again now that some of the COVID-19 restrictions are gradually being lifted.
“In Malta, I met the best people I could possibly meet,” Kenza says, enthused about the friends she made in Malta and Gozo, some of whom are international students like herself. But when asked to cite who inspires her the most, she cannot help but go for a classic: her mother – who smiles widely while seated next to her during our interview.
“My mother studied chemistry and biology at university,” Kenza says, making it clear that the apple of academic interests doesn’t fall far from the tree. “And when she unfortunately didn’t manage to find a job in her field, she just decided to teach French instead. She inspires me, because she never gives up.”