“I am particularly proud of those who have made their decision to return to Afghanistan and become active agents of change at a time when their country needs them most” –Aqeela Asifi
On Wednesday we announced the Top 10 Global Teacher Prize finalists. The ten finalists are truly incredible and inspiring. They are a diverse group of people representing 5 continents, 9 countries, a wide range of subjects and teaching in diverse settings. In the build up to the event and announcement of the winner, in Dubai on the 13th of March, we will be featuring each of our top 10 teachers on their own special day.
Today we start with Aqeela Asifi.
Championing female education in Pakistan
Aqeela’s childhood in Afghanistan was quiet and peaceful. She loved learning, was inspired by her teachers and resolved to follow in their footsteps. Then, in 1992, her world was turned upside down. Civil war erupted and the Taliban came to power in Kabul forcing Aqueela and millions like her to flee to a refugee camp over the border in Pakistan.
What she found in the camps shocked her profoundly. Deeply conservative Afghans regarded education with suspicion preferring to put their children to work. Education for girls and women was particularly frowned upon.
Aqueela was determined that this should change. She started her first school in a borrowed tent, spending as much time educating parents on the benefits of education as their children. There was no money and no equipment: her first pupils spelt out their work in the dust of the tent floor. Careful to be sensitive to religious and tribal sensibilities, word spread amongst both the Afghan refugees and the local Pakistani families who started to send their daughters to Aqeela’s school. She gained the trust of the community and was rewarded increased attendances.
Today, over 1500 pupils are enrolled in her schools of whom 900 are girls. Her graduates are carrying the message back home – two of her former pupils have opened schools for girls in Afghanistan and other have started businesses, become doctors or government employees . “I am particularly proud of those who have made their decision to return to Afghanistan and become active agents of change at a time when their country needs them most”, she says.