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Edmonton man leaves high-paying job to build school in his home country of Somalia

Tuesday July 17, 2018
Kashmala Fida

Farah Dahir, 37, built a school in Somalia after tutoring children in math and science here in Edmonton for the past 12 years.  (KASHMALA FIDA / STARMETRO)

EDMONTON— When his science teacher in Ottawa first asked him to become a teacher’s assistant for a Grade 10 class, Farah Dahir discovered a new hobby; teaching.

Though he eventually went on to find a career in oil, his love of educating never left him.

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Now the 37-year-old is committing to it full-time. On Sunday, he was preparing for his flight to Bosaaso, Somalia, where he built a school to provide quality education to the local community.

Last year he quit his job of 10 years as a scientist for Shell Canada to continue teaching full time at this two tutoring centres and building a school in his home country.

“I truly enjoyed working for Shell and it was not an easy decision to quit. However, at the end, money aside, A Plus Learning Circle is more rewarding and I’m happy with my decision,” he said.

Ever since moving to Canada in 1992, Dahir had visited his home country a number of times and noticed the need for quality education.

“I’ve seen how people value education and how much everybody is willing to invest in education even though they don’t have a lot. And there is not a lot of quality schools out there that would provide quality education,” he said.

He said that’s when he decided to do something about it himself.

He decided to finance the school in Somalia both personally and from tuition fees he collected from his two tutoring centres, one located in the north and the other in the south part of Edmonton.

Dahir says he noticed children in Canada have the privilege of having quality education, but many lack the motivation to take advantage of it. However, in Somalia he saw things were the other way around.

"Back in Somalia, they have 100 per cent motivation (for education) but they are missing everything else. So I believe if somebody provides that opportunity, they would take advantage of it.”

Dahir moved to Canada in 1992 and lived in Ontario for most of his life.

Since Grade 11, he had been involved in tutoring children and volunteering his time at homework clubs teaching math and science. In university he even started a homework club himself for less fortunate youth in Ottawa.

“What attracted me to teaching was he fact that I can make a difference in someone’s life by simply sharing information,” he said. “Also, whenever I teach, I also learn from that person.”

In 2006, he moved to Edmonton after he was appointed the gas chromatography specialist at Shell.

However, he never stopped teaching.

He says a number of families in Ontario, whose children he tutored, had moved to Edmonton around the same time as him. He continued to tutor after work and on weekends.

For the first two years he was able to handle one-on-one sessions, but word spread in the local community and soon he was flooded with requests.

“The need kind of grew the more people asked me for tutoring so I realized it might be a lot easier to open up a tutoring centre because, number 1, you can tutor the kids but at the same time you can train them to be tutors and have them continue this centre when I’m no longer there,” he said.

He opened the first tutoring centre in Edmonton’s north side and called it A Plus Learning Circle in 2009.

It started off with mostly Somali children, but other immigrant communities started sending their kids as well and soon he was catering to 100 to 140 of mostly immigrant children of all backgrounds coming from all over the city.

Last year, he opened the second centre in the south side in Evansdale.

He says as an immigrant he knows education is the best means to succeed in this country.

“It’s the only tool that you have for you to be a middle-class and beyond,” he said.

“Without education I think it’s hard for anyone to succeed in our country and even harder as someone who is a minority to succeed in our country.

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