In today’s world, education is enforced upon a student rather than giving him the choice of learning what interests him. In such a bizarre condition, there are still a few students with passion of learning and even teaching.
Ahmed Yousaf, a Pakistani born and raised international student, is fervent about learning and spreading his zest for education to others as well. Ahmed is a chemistry enthusiast and has an immense sense of responsibility in him.
Ahmed Yousaf joined Arizona State University’s Prison Biology Education Program where students teach biology classes to inmates at Eyman Prison’s Browning Unit, a level-five security prison.
Ahmed has visited the prison this semester for orientation and he believes that teaching biology to prisoners is very gratifying.
It was an interesting experience I would say: They put us in a classroom where they talked about safety and were basically trying to make us feel like it was a regular job. When we actually went into the prison, where we were supposed to get fingerprinted, is when we got to see the inmates for the first time.
Ahmed found his zest for chemistry and teaching in his university in Pakistan where he initiated a Chemistry Outreach Program under which students, teachers and science lovers were taught about the wonders chemistry can do. The program also focused on training teachers from rural areas of Pakistan. At that point, Ahmed discovered new and inventive ways to teach the students.
We had this idea that we would start reaching out to people and show them that chemistry can be fun… We hosted a science fair at our university, invited a bunch of kids over and it went pretty great; so then we decided to take it further.
In 2014, Yousaf left Pakistan and joined Arizona State University to continue his chemistry education up to a PhD. But he felt that something is missing as soon as he left teaching and training. He joined the prison education program to start teaching again in a unique productive manner. Commenting on the significance of the program, he said:
These programs have advantages. The short-time advantage meaning that it reduces the in-prison violence. It’s a Supermax prison, so they’re usually kept in their own cells, so it is a way for them to get out and interact with other people. I think it’s going to be pretty rewarding and I’m very excited about it.
The program is implemented in the form of weekly gathering where students teach inmates about biology. For safety of the students, and a guard remains there all the time. The security of Supermax prison is extra tight. Many inmates are believed to be aggressive and violent, so they are therefore fettered to their desks throughout the class.
Ahmed Yousaf is also the vice president of ASU’s Pakistani Student Association, a non-profit organization which help Pakistani students with networking, communal blending and educational opportunities.