Grantee: 2005 - 2006

Funded: PhD course fees 

Zoulikha is from a city near Algiers, the capital of Algeria.  She was undertaking a fellowship at Université Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris, looking into biological systems with applications in chemotherapy, when an earthquake of magnitude 6.8 hit near her home city, killing over 2,000 people, injuring over 10,000 and leaving 200,000 homeless.  Telephone lines were broken and she was unable to contact her children.  Fearing for their safety, she interrupted her PhD research to return home.

The earthquake occurred against the backdrop of a decade-long civil war between the Algerian authorities and Islamic fundamentalist groups.  Although in recent years the fighting had largely receded, divisions in society were deep and insurgent groups were still operational.

With rising public anger at a slow and inefficient government response to the disaster, the Islamic groups saw an opportunity to recruit more supporters in Zoulikha’s area, particularly among the youth.  They therefore offered support to the earthquake victims to convert people to their cause.  As a member of a local charity organisation that supported young people, she felt obliged to campaign against their actions. Her efforts led to her being targeted and she had to flee the country.

Zoulikha arrived in the UK and claimed asylum in 2003.  While awaiting a decision on her status from the Home Office, she volunteered as an assistant maths teacher and Arabic tutor at her children’s school, and joined Women Connect First and Cymru Refugee and Asylum Seekers Academic Council (CRAC) in Cardiff.  She also made steps to resume her PhD at Brunel University, where she had completed an MSc and MPhil in Numerical Analysis in the mid-1980s.  She believes focussing on her research and volunteering helped her keep her mental composure while she waited for Refugee Status.

Zoulikha heard about CARA in 2005 while volunteering with CRAC and made a successful application for £1,500 to support her PhD costs.  She says she cried with joy when she received the cheque from with her allocation.  She used the money to cover her viva and other expenses, enabling her to complete the research into chemotherapy that she had begun in Algeria and continued in France.

Upon being awarded her PhD, Zoulikha looked for jobs in academia.  She says that this was a very difficult period for her as looking for part-time work proved as time consuming as working a full-time job.  Eventually, in 2007, she was offered a job as Associate Lecturer in Mathematics at the Open University.  Zoulikha admits that she had tears in her eyes when she first wrote on the whiteboard.  Since then, however, she has been continuously employed in academia, working as a Teaching Assistant in Maths, an Arabic Tutor and a Widening Access Officer at Cardiff University and a Research Assistant in Social Science at Swansea University.   

Zoulikha continues to work for the Open University and now works for the Cambridge Education Group at Birkbeck, University of London, tutoring on pre-university foundation programmes for international students.  She is taking a PGCert in Academic Practice with the OU and is in the process of applying for a Research Fellowship at King’s College London, studying “Mathematical modelling of the relationship between drug exposure and the biological effects of inhalers”.  She will be supported by the Daphne Jackson Trust, an organisation that helps scientists, engineers and technologists return to work after a career break.

Zoulikha’s children have attended top UK Universities: Oxford, Imperial College and Bath.  Her sons have graduated and hold good positions, and her daughter is currently on an engineering internship while she finishes her course.  Zoulikha is pleased that the whole family is working and able to contribute to the British economy; she feels that her hard work and commitment has finally paid off.  She says that every time she thinks of CARA she feels a sense of belonging and gratitude for what the organisation has helped her to achieve.