Malha Ahmed Shareef Is an Inspiring Change-Maker

Australia Award - Malha
Malha Ahmed Shareef making a rewarding difference for special needs students.

“Every tiny milestone is a big reason for a celebration and knowing that I am one of the reasons for that achievement is heart-warming.”

Malha is a passionate change-maker, dedicated Special Educator, and mother of two from the Maldives. Her love for her career began after graduating with a Bachelor of Psychological Sciences and joining the Student Support department at Ghiyasuddin International School. This experience sparked her passion for equitable and inclusive education, leading her to specialise in special education.

After nearly a decade of working in the education sector, Malha wanted to further her studies in Special education. She heard about the Australia Awards program, through which many alumni from her country have benefitted, significantly contributing to its development. Inspired by their success, Malha applied for an Australia Awards Scholarship in 2019 and was accepted into the Master of Special Education program at Flinders University.

“I did not have the expertise of a special educator. I had limited knowledge of evidence-based strategies, so I studied for my Masters to complement my research and expand my understanding.”

The Australian experience amidst the Covid-19 Pandemic
Unfortunately, shortly after Malha and her family’s arrival in January 2020, their Australian experience was significantly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Border closures and restrictions led to online classes, which differed from her anticipated experience.
Despite the pandemic being a big part of their Australian life, Malha and her family made the most of their time in Adelaide, exploring South Australia’s natural beauty and participating in local activities.

“Living in Adelaide and studying at Flinders University was my best decision. Though the state borders were closed, South Australia was a haven. When we lived there, Adelaide was crowned the most liveable city in Australia and the third most liveable city in the world. Despite being unable to travel across borders during this time, we spent our free time driving and exploring South Australia. Hiking became a big part of our life in South Australia; the Maldives is a small island nation, so we don’t have hills or mountains.”

During Malha’s second year, Covid-19 restrictions started to ease, and classes were at the university campus. “Being on campus made me so happy as I could see people and put faces to names I’ve seen online. I am grateful for my on-campus experience as I made life-long connections and friends from around the world that I am still in touch with today.”

Malha’s children also enjoyed their time at school, engaging in extracurricular activities and immersing themselves in Australia’s history and culture.
Returning home as an Australia Awards Alumna
Upon returning to the Maldives, Malha currently works as Special Education Educator at a private institute founded by Australia Awards Alumni, the Institution for Mental Wellbeing in Male.
Malha is focused on achieving five goals in the education sector:

  1. Provide ongoing teacher training and coaching to help teachers modify and differentiate lessons to suit specific environments.
    2. Create Individualised Educational Planning (IEP) by working with parents, administrators, and mainstream teachers to develop strategies that meet each student’s unique educational needs.
    3. Conduct workshops to equip parents with the knowledge and skills their children need to thrive.
    4. Advocate for special educators and increase awareness of the importance of play for early intervention, which supports the development of language, speech, fine motor, gross motor, cognition, and more.
    5. Lastly, Improve access to affordable assistive technology, including alternative or augmentative communication devices in the local language, to ensure that people with autism spectrum disorder and other disabilities can exercise their fundamental human rights and participate in social, political, and economic decision-making.

Malha’s advice for those who are interested in applying for an Australia Awards Scholarship:
“If you dream of pursuing an Australia Awards Scholarship, don’t be afraid to apply and make it a reality! Remember that this scholarship can not only benefit you but also contribute to the development of your country. To improve your chances of success, start by identifying areas that need improvement in your country and consider how your expertise can positively impact you—dedicating time and effort to your application daily rather than waiting until the last minute is important. Seeking advice from alumni members and experts in your field can also be helpful, so don’t hesitate to do your homework and reach out for support. You can achieve your goals and make a meaningful difference in your community with hard work and dedication.”