Farrukh Umarov, 29, from Tajikistan, is an Oxford University graduate and the founder of Ilmhona, a tech skills acceleration center. He was born in Istaravshan, a small city in northern Tajikistan, to a family of labor migrants. Farrukh's father, like hundreds of thousands of Tajiks, migrated to Russia when the boy was only 10.
“Despite the fact that my father was not around, he always supported me in my desire to study. After the civil war broke out [in Tajikistan], there was a period of economic stagnation and high unemployment. My parents worked hard to give us a good education against all odds. I always knew that I needed to go an extra mile to achieve something important,” says Farrukh.
After completing courses at Oxford University, Farrukh realized that the tech sphere has plenty of opportunities. This prompted him to launch Ilmhona Skills Acceleration Center in Dushanbe. There, anyone can study IT courses and even get a job in the tech sphere. Thanks to the unique system Farrukh has implemented, it is possible to earn a degree at Ilmhona for free.
“One needs a deposit to start studying. Yet, if a student completes the course with 85 points or more, he or she gets from 50 to 100 percent of their deposit money back,” explains Farrukh. “We have examples of students earning 100 percent of their money back.”
Inspired by the success of Ilmhona, Farrukh decided to launch a new office in his hometown, Istaravshan, which could otherwise not boast of many opportunities for young people. To fund the initiative, Farrukh applied for an in-kind grant from USAID’s Kazakhstan-based Social Innovation in Central Asia (SICA) program. With support in part from USAID Farrukh bought computer equipment and launched IT courses for more than 200 residents of Istaravshan.
One of Farrukh’s most successful students to date is Khassan Soliyev, who worked as a house painter before stumbling across an ad for Ilmhona.
“I really wanted to study [at Ilmhona], but when I realized their office was located far from my town, I was very upset. Yet just six months later they launched an office here in Istaravshan,’’ says Khassan. “Of course, the first thing I did was to sign up.”
Ilmhona recently launched a program specifically catered to girls in tech. The first group of 30 female students already finished the first course.
“It is very important for us to show that girls can do anything,” notes Farrukh. “Our first IT course for the girls of my hometown is meant to equip them with tools to create a promising future.”
In addition to the training courses, Ilmhona organizes startup events, soft skills workshops, and meetups for Tajik youth. Farrukh hopes these initiatives will inspire young people and help raise a new tech-oriented Tajik generation.
“Although Tajikistan has limited natural resources, the country has plenty of human capital potential,” says Farrukh. “My mission is to make my homeland a country of talents in the field of innovation and technology.”
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