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27 April 2010
Dr Qismullah’s story is particularly interesting given his humble beginnings. He was born in Sigli, in Aceh, Indonesia, the eldest of ten children. He completed his PhD in Adult Education (Training and Development) at Oregon State University, in the United States of America in 1992.
Dr Qismullah has 22 years experience teaching in high school, vocational schools and universities in Aceh. He began teaching English and Arts subjects in a high school in 1974. In 1979 he taught tailoring at a vocational school and from 1975 – 1996 he worked at Syiah Kuala University in Banda Aceh, in both the Language Centre and the Public Relations Division, of which he was the Head. Since 1987, Dr Qismullah has participated in establishing high school curriculum within traditional Islamic boarding schools in Aceh.
This was the first time formal schooling was brought into these schools, allowing students to progress to university. Dr Qismullah then went on to provide literacy and vocational educational programs to these traditional Islamic schools, a program that was supported by the Governor of Aceh at the time.
Between 1997 and 2000, Dr Qismullah joined nine other Acehnese leaders to establish the first modern traditional boarding school in Banda Aceh which served as a model for other traditional boarding schools in Aceh. This school focussed on educating early school leavers and abused and homeless children.
Dr Qismullah has worked extensively in government and non-government organisations.
He was the Director of an organisation established by wealthy Acehnese and Indonesians to provide funds and training to youths in Aceh to establish their own business. He then became Deputy Chair at the Chamber of Commerce of Aceh in Training and Development. His role was to establish a training program for youths to assist them to become business owners.
Every year Dr Qismullah employs young university students to work with him. He provides training and pays their tuition fees and living costs to enable them to complete their degrees at a university, often overseas. He is currently involved in establishing an institution to train disadvantaged youth in a remote area. It began as a two-classroom building, and is now a two storey building consisting of eight classrooms.
The most significant achievement of Dr Qismullah is his post-tsunami leadership.
In December 2004, a massive tsunami struck the Province of Aceh with catastrophic effect. This tsunami flattened 1,156 schools, 14 traditional boarding school campuses, killed 2,650 teachers (including teachers of traditional boarding schools), displaced almost 42,000 pupils, disturbed teaching and learning activities of more than 150,000 pupils, and made more than 3,000 teachers homeless. One thousand teachers were traumatized and unable to function properly in their classrooms. The tsunami also destroyed almost 400 laboratories, 225 small and medium libraries with hundreds of thousands of books, destroyed almost all education records of students in 14 districts, devastated 14 out of 68 learning resources centres of teachers. On the third day following the tsunami, Dr Qismullah took on the coordination of the distribution of financial and other foreign and domestic aid for disaster relief and community reconstruction. He held this post formally for 30 months and has continued informally in the role ever since. His role in the social and educational reconstruction of post-tsunami Aceh has been extraordinary.
Deakin University has played a critical role in the reconstruction of the education sector in Aceh and Dr Qismullah has been a strategic link facilitating a number of the professional exchanges required to effect the rebuilding of the teacher workforce. In addition, he has supported Faculty of Arts and Education researchers conducting field work that has been informing the educational activities and the disaster recovery undertaken in the region.
Through these activities, Dr Qismullah has not only helped his own community, but he has also made a significant contribution to the objects and programs of the University and in particular the Faculty of Arts and Education. The practical and applied teaching and research activities undertaken in the Aceh region have enabled the Faculty to draw from its areas of research strength to benefit a community in need, and through these, extend the corpus of knowledge in international relations, human rights development, disaster recovery, languages in society, globalisation and teacher education.
Dr Qismullah has devoted his adult life to developing the education sector in the Province of Aceh. His objectives very strongly align with the objectives of Deakin University and his work demonstrates how an individual can be a catalyst for positive change in a community.