Teachers really are something else. Underappreciated and underpaid. Some stick in our memories forever. Some don’t. But collectively, they play pivotal roles in the lives of the thousands of students they teach and mentor.
If you speak to your elders, you also realize that there was a time when the profession was a highly respected one – take what you may on how that bodes for us as a society today. We’ve come to take our teachers for granted at a time when we need them the most.
Some 23 million children are out of school in Pakistan. Most Pakistani children who start school drop out by the age of nine, only 3% of those starting public school actually graduate. And young girls from poor families are least likely to attend. In fact, the gap between girls and boys enrolment in Pakistan is the widest in South Asia, after Afghanistan.
So how can we play our part when it comes to our teachers? We can start with the simplest gesture of thanking them. We might need more of them, we might need them to be better trained and equipped to educate the youth of Pakistan but let’s not underwrite them for what they’re doing day in and day out in their own capacity.
Our visit to Shireen Jinnah Colony School – a government school located in Karachi – was a truly inspiring one. The area was once a no-go zone, and the school prior to 2008 only had 50 students and two teachers. In 2008, Sayeeda Leghari adopted the school and turned it around. Today, the school educates close to 2000 students with over 40 teachers on staff. “Education has the power to uplift people from dire conditions. It gets young Pakistanis, off the streets and enables them to do something with their lives,” said Sayeeda.
What we witnessed is something we missed completely when we were growing up, mostly because we were, well, too busy being kids. We saw the commitment and dedication every teacher carried with themselves. “We want them to become successful and bring a positive change in their homes,” said Miss Zahida, a teacher at Shireen Jinnah.
Students also spoke fondly of their teachers. One girl, who wished not to be named, said she saw her teacher as her role model and wanted to go into the same profession because of the way she was nurtured. Other girls told us how their teachers stood up for them through different stages of their lives, when they didn’t have the confidence to stand up for themselves. A feeling, most people can probably relate to.
So here’s to celebrating the most selfless careers in the world and hoping that we as a society begin cherishing and respecting teachers more than we do today. Watch a short video of our visit to Shireen Jinnah Colony School and tell us your fondest memories of your favourite teachers in the comments below.