Liaquatpur, a small village 110 kilometers away from Rahim Yar Khan had been a beautiful drive along ripe mango fields and expansive green fields on both the sides. As the day progressed and I entered my last school for the day’s field visit, I did not foresee what I was about to observe. I visited an enthusiastic pre primary class of 64 children at Government Primary School Darhi Sangi, I was awe struck by the performance of the students on all learning levels of Urdu, English and Math . Students were outperforming in this class as compared to all the other schools I had visited previously. Then I was introduced to the Para Teacher, Haseena Bibi, who was an ITA appointed teacher for Out of School Children which had been enrolled as well as those children in school but at the risk of drop out. Haseena Bibi was confident and patiently answering all my queries for the field visit.
I stayed back till late after school so that I could have a conversation with Haseena Bibi regarding her job well done. The story of Haseena Bibi is pretty simple as she puts it. However the impact she has created is worth noting for educational practitioners around the country. It had been nine years since Haseena Bibi started teaching in her village and has been a part of many development projects in the capacity of a teacher. Her Husband is a ‘rickshaw’ driver and she has no children. The students at school are her children as she puts it. Haseena Bibi joined ITA back in August of 2015 during commencement of ITA’s ‘Chalo Parho Barho’ camps in our selected schools in Liaquatpur. I asked Haseena Bibi about her relationship with the children and she told us that, “I don’t maintain a strict relationship with my students. Often so they even call me ‘baji’ (sister) accidently because I’m so friendly with them. However, I make sure they learn etiquettes and follow them."
Since the commencement of CPB camps and Dubai Cares project interventions in the village, general awareness regarding education increased the number of households wishing to send their children to school therefore crowding out of students within Haseena Bibi’s class had been a challenge. “First I had a class of 40 students in August, but then there were many out of school children enrolled through ITA. The head teacher told me to teach more so they added another 24 students to my class. Many of them will soon be transitioned into higher classes.”
Haseena Bibi’s village has a diverse population with a considerable proportion of students belonging from religious minorities in the area. However, Haseena Bibi makes sure that this has no influence on quality education as a right of every child in the village. “There are all kinds of kids here, from different castes and religions, from Muslims to Christians to Hindus, but they’re all equal inside my classroom.”
The Dubai Cares Project under Idara e Taleem o Agahi gives paramount importance to improvement of learning levels for children transitioning from Early Childhood Education to primary level classes. Para teachers have specifically been trained on the provided Teacher Learning Materials (TLMs) to apply their skills into interactive and conceptual learning. Upon asking Haseena Bibi reasons behind her over performing students she told us that, “My teaching strategy is that I don’t overload children with a lot of work. I teach them less everyday but I make sure they know their concepts properly. Teachers usually overload the children and then they end up revising nothing. Not only do I teach these concepts but I also make sure they learn and revise it within the classroom.”
We also asked Haseena Bibi about what should be done to better the education system. She answered, “The Sports, Reading, Science and Health Kits provided by ITA really helped. It gives an incentive for little children to get up and come to school every day to play and read with it; even the smallest of incentives can make a huge difference in educating more children.” We learned from Haseena Bibi that provision of proper incentives such as the Teacher Learning Materials facilitate teachers along with the formal curriculum.
Haseena Bibi’s classroom wasn’t just another classroom in a remote village. The 64 children along with Haseena Bibi have set a precedent on lessons of equality, empathy, incentivized learning, conceptual and quality education. We are proud to have Para Teachers such as Haseena Bibi a part of the ITA family; working on the ground and making the change possible.