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Watch: Retired teacher keeps kids off video games with Iraq street school

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Between 40 and 50 students have joined Ali's programme
Between 40 and 50 students have joined Ali's programme -
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Reuters
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Retired teacher Khamis Ali has set up a classroom in the street outside his house in the city of Kirkuk, northern Iraq, with plastic chairs lined up and whiteboards fixed to the wall of the building opposite.

Dozens of children gather for free after-school lessons in science, maths – and how to get along with each other.

Ali, 70, who funds the lessons himself, says his main goal is to keep kids out of trouble – and off video games. He says he worries about the effects the games have on both "education and ethics".

"I think it is better for the children than staying out in the streets or playing on the iPad at home and playing other games such as PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, these games that emerged after the 2003 [US-led invasion]."

Between 40 and 50 students have joined his programme and, according to Ali, some travel from other areas just to attend his classes.

In one lesson, he taught the children about Kirkuk and how it is a model example of co-existence in Iraq. A diverse and multilingual city, 238 kilometres north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, Kirkuk is home to Kurds, Arabs, Iraqi Turkmens, Chaldeans and Assyrians.

"The most important thing that I taught them is that Kirkuk is the city of brotherhood – how we all coexist, the Kurds, Turkmen, Arabs and Christians. Everyone co-exists in this province," he said.

Ali also teaches science and mathematics, the latter bringing out the children's enthusiasm in a way that might seem surprising, as they scream at the top of their lungs to answer their adopted teacher's questions and race to be first to raise their hands.

One of Ali's students, Abdul-Khaliq Waleed, said: "We attend classes daily except for Friday. This is better than playing football or playing on the iPad."

Waleed Khaled, the father of another of the students, says the outdoor setting is what fuels their enthusiasm.

"The students love this atmosphere, they see it as being a bit more open than school, where they are restricted by a uniform and the teachers. Because of the all the pressure that students feel at school, they end up hating [it], either because of the teaching or because of the strong routine that exists in our schools.

"As you see the teacher, God bless him, does all this at his own expense – the teaching, the gifts he hands out and the information, it is all for free."