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Blind Refugee now sees his future as distinguished Mathematician

TAFE NSW Liverpool

Blind Refugee now sees his future as distinguished Mathematician

Picture: Refugee Arkan Yousef with TAFE NSW teacher and mentor Malayamattathil Abraham.

A blind Iraqi refugee who came to Australia with limited English skills has now graduated with a Masters degree at the age of 62, proving that it’s never too late to learn.  

Arkan Yousef settled in South West Sydney 14 years ago wanting to capitalize on his new life in Australia. He was encouraged to embark on a life-changing opportunity to study a Certificate II in English Language Skills by a TAFE NSW teacher and mentor, which he said transformed the trajectory of his life. 

After falling in love with learning, Arkan went on to study a Certificate IV in Tertiary Preparation and then a Certificate IV in Information Technology at TAFE NSW Liverpool, which would later launch his academic education as a mathematician at University of Technology Sydney.  

At 62 years old and completely blind in both eyes, Arkan said it was challenging to get where he is today but was thankful for the support network he had from teachers who were with him from the beginning of his education journey. 

“I went from not being able to speak to anyone in English and not even knowing how to use the internet, to writing thesis papers and conducting academic research online and that’s all thanks to TAFE NSW,” Arkan said. 

“Studying has been a challenge but I trusted in myself and my TAFE NSW teachers had faith in me. Some people call me crazy for studying at this age but I’m trying to show others that you can achieve anything with the power of education behind you,” Arkan said. 

With the number of people completing Bachelor degrees more than tripling over 20 years,1 there has never been a more encouraging time to study a tertiary preparation course at TAFE NSW, which provides students, who don’t have an ATAR, with a pathway into university. 

Akran has now completed a Masters of Science (Mathematical and Statistical Modelling) and has his eyes set on a PhD. 

Professor Anthony Dooley, Head of UTS Science School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, said everyone who worked with Arkan was impressed by his dedication. 

"He has overcome major difficulties and is now working on an important concept in mathematics education that sheds light on learning and learners of mathematics," he said. 

Arkan has since gone on to volunteer with the Liverpool Community Migrant Resource Centre as a math tutor and teaches computing skills to blind people at Vision Australia. He has also delivered talks at TAFE NSW Liverpool to other young migrants. 

Malayamattathil Abraham, TAFE NSW Educational Pathways teacher, with Arkan YousefMalayamattathil Abraham, TAFE NSW Educational Pathways teacher, said it had been an honor to play a part in supporting Arkan’s journey from TAFE NSW to a distinguished university. 

“Arkan is a reflection of the life changing opportunity TAFE NSW gives students to get ahead or get started in their career,” Mr Abraham said. 

“His transformation as a student and lifelong learner has been nothing short of amazing and he continues to be an inspiration to many of our current TAFE NSW students.” 

To find out more about the English and Tertiary Preparation courses on offer at TAFE NSW, visit, or call 131 601. 

Media Contact: Jessica Cortis, TAFE NSW Media and Communications Business Partner, 0456 170 211