The Year of the Big Shift
January 17, 2024
LUTFULLO TAGOEV, IIE Rodman C. Rockefeller FELLOW 2022–2023
IIE chose Lutfullo Tagoev as a 2022-2023 IIE Centennial Fellow to support his project to create online courses and college preparatory training programs for Afghan refugees in his home country, Tajikistan. 10 Afghan refugees received internships to help design the course and develop their own professional skills through the process.
I began working on digitizing the education of displaced and refugee Afghan people in Tajikistan more than one year ago. My project was challenging, but the impact and lessons learned were invaluable. More than ten Afghan refugees successfully completed a three-month internship program at my employer, and more than 100 Afghan refugees completed four online courses. Some examples of the courses offered are ‘Basic Computer Science,’ ‘Web Development,’ and ‘Social Media Marketing.’ A bonus: I had the opportunity to reflect on the growth I’ve been privileged to witness among the project participants; I provided personalized recommendation letters for more than ten participants seeking employment, college admissions, and fellowships. Most importantly, the participants in my project developed new skills and found their way into the workforce and educational institutions.
But that’s not all. I did not expect to experience such profound personal development. Over the course of this project, I developed a much more profound sense of empathy for the lived experiences – and challenges – of other people, especially Afghan refugees. As I reflect on the past, I wonder how I managed to live in a community alongside so many displaced people and yet failed to see the restrictions they faced when attempting to access basic needs and other critical opportunities. For example, I recall asking an Afghan intern if anything had happened to him because he’d arrived late that day; he informed me that because it was a national holiday, he and other Afghan people were not permitted to enter large cities. Determined to work, he walked the streets anyway and was detained and questioned by police for more than an hour. That was an eye-opening interaction. Since that day, I pledged to better educate myself about the problems and lives of each person with whom I work; this has strengthened my leadership and management skills. I learned that empathizing with and truly understanding people’s challenges leads to better decisions and progress.
The Change: The Way Afghan Refugees Learn
My home country of Tajikistan is a top hosting country among refugees and displaced persons from Afghanistan. Inspired by my passion for education and technology, I designed my project to improve displaced and refugee populations’ access to education and employment. However, multiple challenges, such as bureaucracy, financial constraints, and language barriers, hindered our efforts to bring Afghan refugees to universities and educational institutions. As an alternative, I brought education into the homes and onto the devices of students. Over the past ten months, I have been working to change the paradigm of learning for Afghan refugees. By conducting workshops and online courses, we educated the community about the benefits of technology. We showed them that studying and working from anywhere and at any time is possible. Applying for opportunities and scholarships is also possible using technology. By using technology and the internet of things, they were able to see how they could have an equal opportunity to learn and work. This paradigm shift is the success of the project.
Not the End: How the Project Will Continue to Educate Refugees and Displaced People
I designed this project in a way that it could continue to have a positive impact after its completion. One reason it is self-sustaining is the digitization of the solution. We created a Telegram community where all target audiences could participate. Online resources housed in this community allow participants to continue learning and assist each other in learning. As a result, we created and encouraged the concept of community learning among Afghan refugees and displaced persons.
Lutfullo pursued a master’s degree at Syracuse University in Instructional Design and Development and worked for Hyland
Company as Instructional Designer in Ohio. After gaining theoretical and practical knowledge in the U.S., he returned to Tajikistan
and formed the first instructional design company in the country – Smarthub.tj. Today, they provide educational solutions and the
first e-learning management system to businesses and individuals in Tajikistan.
Named in honor of IIE’s Centennial and association with the Fulbright Program, the IIE Centennial Fellowship seeks to help enhance
Fulbright as a life-long experience and recognize alumni whose work embodies the program’s underlining values of mutual
understanding, leadership, global problem solving, and global impact.