The success of women against the odds: Educate a woman, educate a community

28 December 2016 | SUCCESS STORY

Former head of Diamond Jubilee (DJ) Learning Resource High School (LRHS) Chatorkhand, Chashman Bibi, and current schoolteacher at the DJ Middle School Sultanabad, Zareena Begum, have inspiring stories. 

Former head of Diamond Jubilee (DJ) Learning Resource High School (LRHS) Chatorkhand, Chashman Bibi, and current schoolteacher at the DJ Middle School Sultanabad, Zareena Begum, have inspiring stories. 

When she was six years old, Bibi studied in a one-room school that had a small group of students gathered on the floor around one teacher. From there, she moved on to receive private tutoring and eventually became the first woman in her village to pass the secondary school examination. 

Recalling her secondary school graduation, Bibi says it was her father’s proudest moment. “He was an army man,” she recalls. “He really wanted me to study. My mother was more traditional and wanted me to stay at home to help with the housework. But my father was insistent that I should study.”

In 1986, Bibi was appointed as a teacher for AKES in Pakistan. Through its professional development programmes, she was able to further improve her skills. “After I did my matriculation, I wanted to do distance learning from a university in Lahore for my higher education,” Bibi explains. “With AKES’s encouragement and facilitation, I received a scholarship to get my MA in English from the National University of Modern Languages in Islamabad.” 

Begum, meanwhile, was made to leave school after the eighth grade, as she was getting married. But this did not stop her from pursuing her goals. With the help of her very encouraging father-in-law, a teacher with AKES, Begum started home schooling under his supervision. In 1988, she sat for an entry test for teachers at AKES and was appointed to the Middle School in Sultanabad. 

Every morning before heading to school, Begum would do her share of farm and housework. She says she was fortunate that her family could afford lanterns, which meant that she could study at night. 

When asked about her biggest accomplishment, Begum says “my entire life”. Proud of her struggle, she says, “I had to teach myself everything. And now, my students are excelling.”

Alongside her, Bibi, though retired, continues working for education, first as a Senior Master Trainer for the Girls’ Power Programme, and currently serving as the district manager with government schools. 

Bibi is proud that one of her former students, Gulzar Afaqi, is now heading the Chatorkhand school and some of her other former students are teachers at the same school. 

Both women are a reminder of the well-known words: “If you educate a woman, you educate a family” — and, by extension, a community.