Refugee teacher empowers youth in Indonesia

Despite challenges, Afghan refugee Ali Khan refuses to give up his passion for teaching children. In the past months, he has been teaching web programming and web designing to refugee youth in Pekanbaru, Riau. Now, all of his students are able to design their own websites.

Ali teaches his students at a refugee accommodation. ©UNHCR/M. Syukri

Born 33 years ago in a small village in Ghazni, Afghanistan, Ali discovered his passion for teaching young people in his hometown after earning his degree in computer science in Kabul.

Ali, who also studied English and computer science for three years in Pakistan taught children in his hometown to learn English and computer skills in the hope that they would have a better future. Unfortunately, threats and an attack by an extremist group unless he stopped teaching forced Ali to flee his home country. In 2014, he arrived in Pekanbaru and was detained at the Pekanbaru Immigration Detention Centre (IDC).

At the IDC, he witnessed that many children and youth had no access to education and voluntarily taught English to them. “Do not wait for others to help you. You can help yourself and your community with your capacity,” Ali said. Once he was released to a community accommodation provided by International Organization for Migration (IOM), he continued teaching. He is flourishing as he continues to spread positive energy by teaching English, math, as well as basic computer skills. Assisted by his wife, he created a math module that has been adjusted to the needs of the community.

Ali (right) prepares some teaching materials. ©UNHCR/M. Syukri

Ali always looks happy in front of his students although he is juggling his teaching activity with his role as a father of one-year-old boy. In the past 10 months, he has started to teach web programming and web designing to youth in his accommodation.

The main challenge that he has been facing is the lack of teaching materials and classroom facilities. To fill the gap, Ali managed to download several free e-books to provide adequate teaching materials to his students. He and his students raised money to buy a small projector for their classroom.

Ali is a proud teacher as some of his students have developed their own websites. Some of them even teach other children. “I am very proud that some of my students have their own initiative to teach other kids. It is a good virus,” said Ali.

The students shared their admiration of him, saying that Ali can make them believe in themselves. “I learn to be confident. At first, I couldn’t even stand in front of the classroom,” said a refugee student, Sahira. “Through this class, I can do presentation, debate and even develop my own website,” she continued, adding that she wants to help other underprivileged children like her, as well as Indonesian children to learn about web programming.