Building peace in the minds of men and women

How a teacher is enhancing girls’ learning in Pakistan

11 April 2019

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© UNESCO Islamabad/Asad Zaidi

Meet Uzma Ilyas, a modern day hero.

Uzma is a primary school teacher at a Government Girls’ Primary School in Pakistan Administered Kashmir. She grew up in a poor family and struggled to complete her education. But Uzma did not give up. She was lucky to have the support of her parents who strongly believed in the value of girls’ education. Since her childhood, she was passionate about teaching and wanted to help girls from her community go to school.  

Her dream came true when she became a primary school teacher. Today, like many other teachers working in the public sector, Uzma juggles multiple competing tasks. She teaches two to three classes in different subjects, manages various student ability groups and completes the prescribed syllabus for the year. But teaching is even more challenging when there is inadequate training in teaching methodologies, limited availability of resources at schools and a heavy class schedule.

Earlier this year, Uzma heard about a training in her community organized by UNESCO in Pakistan. She signed up and had the opportunity to enhance her teaching career. She learned about activity-based learning and multi-grade teaching. The training also provided Uzma and other teachers like her with tips on classroom management strategies and planning.

“Teaching is no longer a routine job for me, I try different things every day, and students take a keen interest in classroom activities”, said Uzma. “I have learned to develop a unit plan for different subjects and grades, prepare low-cost learning aids, form different ability groups and use my time and resources more effectively.”

Uzma strives to build a happy community of learners and engages her students in the learning process. “Participation in the UNESCO training not only helped me enhance my knowledge and skills in teaching, it changed my perception of teaching and learning”, she said. The training has encouraged her to be the best teacher she can be for the girls attending her classes.

Since taking the training, Uzma has used the new techniques she learned to foster an interactive classroom environment for her students. This has helped her better engage students in learning activities and increase interest in education and schooling among their parents. She is hopeful to continue the journey to reach out to entire communities.

The UNESCO training took place over four days in Muzaffarabad in Administered Kashmir, Pakistan. It aimed to equip 46 female primary school teachers with the necessary skills as part of the Girls’ Right to Education Programme. The Programme is implemented by the UNESCO Islamabad office for the period 2014-2019, following the signing of the Malala Funds-in-Trust agreement between the Government of Pakistan and UNESCO to provide “support to national capacity building to realize girls’ right to education in Pakistan”.

This initial major contribution by the Government of Pakistan enabled the creation of the UNESCO Malala Fund for Girls’ Right to Education, which supports marginalised girls to expand their access to a quality education across Africa, Asia and Latin America, with additional contributions from other donors.

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