Roaa Mohammad AlMulki is a 16-year-old living with her family in Abha, the capital of Saudi Arabia’s ‘Asir Region.
Because Roaa’s family is Syrian, they’re often isolated from their Saudi neighbors. In Saudi Arabia, says her father Mohammad AlMulki, social interactions for kids are often limited to close family and there isn’t much interaction among the kids after school is out for the day.
Mohammed has noticed that Roaa has started making friends through her Tekkie Uni class, becoming closer with classmates, learning and interacting even after class has ended.
The challenges faced by Syrians in Saudi Arabia were among the reasons Mohammad wanted Roaa to join Tekkie Uni.
“Here in Saudi Arabia, it’s very challenging for foreigners,” he said. “Priorities are given to local people, and foreigners come next, so we must prove ourselves and work harder to attain our goals. This exerts more pressure on us, the Syrians, as a foreign community, but in the end, we excel because we’ve got talent.”
How can an online coding class help a Syrian teen in Saudi Arabia?
Roaa’s mother found Tekkie Uni through a Facebook ad, and the family reached out to a Tekkie Uni adviser by email for more information.
It was a family decision, says Roaa’s father Mohammad AlMulki. He and his wife wanted to be sure that Roaa wanted to try coding before signing her up. She was hesitant at first. Her school had only covered coding in theory and she’d never taken a class online. Once Roaa started taking the course, however, she was hooked. She loved the instructor’s teaching style, enjoyed the projects, and found that she really likes coding. She was finally able to practice coding and build on the programming knowledge she’d learned at school.
Mohammad is pleased that Roaa has taken to programming; he was the one who’d wanted her to take coding in the first place. While Saudi society may offer opportunities to Saudi nationals first, immigrant children who prove themselves are given a chance, no matter their background, he said. Coding is a way for Roaa to learn more skills and get ahead, like her siblings, who are in public schools, but have been selected for special programs.
How does taking coding online improve a kid’s skills?
Roaa has worked on 9 projects so far. She looks at whichever she’s working on at the moment as if it’s her best friend, says her father. She’s inspired by her own thoughts, by songs she’s heard, and by things she’d like to try. Her most recent project, for example, is meant to teach children, aged 6-8, to identify different countries’ flags.
Mohammad encourages Roaa to share her projects with the family often, even before they’re completed. He’s seen how motivated she gets when she starts working on a project and begins to see early results, but he’s also been impressed by how working on her projects has helped Roaa learn to solve problems and address challenges on her own.
“Roaa doesn’t give up easily and keeps trying, many times, until it works,” said her father. “By attending Tekkie classes, she has developed her problem-solving techniques.”
For example, she faces some organizational challenges with her current project, but she’s solving those issues by outlining the project on paper “and using some imagination.”
“I always face issues, like a million times,” said Roaa. “Sometimes it works and sometimes it does not. I keep trying, and yes, I do make mistakes. In programming, you don’t find the solution easily, and you will need to keep thinking.”
Why is it important for kids to study coding?
Mohammad, who has an IT background himself, was interested in seeing Roaa pursue coding, because it will prepare her for a potential job in the future: technology jobs are growing, and because she’s been exposed to programming languages based on English, her English language skills have improved.
It’s also been a benefit to study coding from home, says her father.
“Most Arabs like the idea that their children — especially daughters — sisters or wives can study or work from home,” says Mohammad. “This will give them the opportunity to follow their dream and take care of other responsibilities at home.”
Roaa was also able to meet kids from other cultures, something she wouldn’t be able to do normally.
“Even though you don’t see the other students face-to-face, you learn from them and affect others in a good way,” he said. “Learning with Tekkie Uni has changed Roaa’s way of thinking as the learning process is more exciting in comparison with her school studies. She has learned how to manage her time and be more committed, and she has also improved her English skills and has become open to new cultures.”