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Scholar aims to contribute to meaningful development in Pakistan

Posted: 1 July 2024

Pakistan, Experience, In Australia, Scholar,

Ozair Rahim began studying a Master of Development Studies at the University of Melbourne in 2023 with the support of an Australia Awards Scholarship.

Ozair was featured as ‘the face of’ the Australia Awards promotions in Pakistan for study commencing in 2025. Prior to his return to Pakistan this month, we caught up with him to ask about his Scholarship journey, how it has affected his professional and personal growth, and what advice he has for prospective applicants. His answers below reflect a passionate interest in development.

Why did you apply for an Australia Awards Scholarship?

I have always been intrigued by the interplay of various elements that make a person professional and excel in their field. As a member of the Civil Services of the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan, I have been working with development professionals from all across the world, deciding what projects should be undertaken, where and how, but without fully knowing the actual value of what development meant. My previous studies were in finance and financial management, and I had thought that this knowledge would be all that was required to design and implement projects. But at times, after my discussions with development partners, I would find myself looking up terms, expressions and models that they had used. These models were from the development field. Other times, when visiting a community, I would find inconsistencies between what we had intended the project to achieve and what was actually happening on the ground.

All these triggered a desire in me to learn more about the phenomenon called ‘development’. I wanted to bring the maximum benefit to the people of my country and remove hardships from their lives. To achieve this, I realised that I would have to dig into a field that was completely different from my previous educational background.

Australia Awards presented itself as an opportunity through which I could immerse myself in learning not only about the field of development but also about its practical implications in a community. For me, it is not just about studying in a high-ranking world-class institute, but also about learning from the experiences shared by esteemed faculty members and fellow scholars. The Australia Awards Scholarship was the right blend of academics and practice, promising to bring together greater professional insights into the field of development.

Ozair at the University of Melbourne.

How has your Australia Awards Scholarship contributed to your personal and professional growth?

I am pursuing a Master of Development Studies at the University of Melbourne. This degree and the way it has been designed have given me numerous professional insights into the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of development. I have learnt that development is not just about a beautifully designed project, but more about engaging directly with the people and taking them on board to deliver according to their requirements and needs. The content of this degree, such as community-led development practice, monitoring and evaluation in development, and gender and development, opened multiple dimensions to development that I intend to incorporate in my professional work after this degree.

Personally, I have learnt to communicate and work in a multicultural environment. I have also become more comfortable in sharing my ideas and thoughts with my peers, and this experience has enabled me to make persuasive and logical arguments.

How have you found your life in Australia outside of the university environment?

Truly, this Scholarship is not just about academic learning; the experience goes beyond university life as well. I have learnt about Australia’s First Nations people and their culture and experienced their food. I have been able to explore Melbourne as the blending pot of diverse cultures. By visiting different parts of the city, I have seen its beautiful flora and fauna, its natural beauty, and enthralling historical sites that have given me deeper insights into Melbourne. I have learnt to enjoy life the Melbourne way by attending various events hosted in the city. And along with this, I have made many new friends beyond my academic circle.  

Ozair with then scholars, now alumnae, from Pakistan, Farwa Abbas (left) and Wajeeha Khursheed (right) at the University of Melbourne.

What do you hope to do once you return to your home country?

Upon returning, I am looking forward to bringing value to the lives of the people of Pakistan and improving their living standards. I hope to engage with the donor community, the Government of Pakistan and the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in a meaningful way to deliver projects that actually help the people of Pakistan. I would like to work on initiating sustainable and local financing vis-à-vis development models that would reduce dependence on donor agencies and would circulate benefits within the community and country. I believe that this is an often-ignored area when designing projects.

In doing all this and much more, my only hope is to make Pakistan a prosperous country where no single individual has to ever be worried about healthcare, education, employment or financial security.

What advice would you give to potential Scholarship applicants?

My advice is to keep their personal values and professional insights in perspective while deciding about their Scholarship goals. This is a unique opportunity to project the softer, professional image of one’s country on the global stage. They are potential ambassadors of their countries and they should display a persona, both academically and otherwise, that highlights the best of their country and of themselves.