Category Archives: Classroom Impact

Stories about our Fellows and their classrooms

Educating Our Girls with the Power of Pink

When 2014 Karachi Fellows Mahrukh and Laila first entered the classroom at the beginning of their Fellowship, they knew they were up against the enormous challenge of shifting the mindsets on girls’ education. Their students in the Girls Primary and Secondary school held so much potential, yet the roles that society ascribed them coupled with the disparity they were born in to mean that they would most likely be trapped in a cycle of marginalization due to the simple fact of their gender.

So what did Mahrukh and Laila do to change this? They used the Power of Pink!

Every day, the 4th and 5th grade girls in this small, under-resourced school chant the Power of Pink at the tops of their voices. In a community stuck in the rut of poverty and marginalization, their primary school serves as the oasis of progress. The poem is placed boldly above the chalkboard painted on to the chipped walls of the dusty classroom. It is a bright reminder of the way forward.

“Lets’ pen this down,

We are college bound!

We have the power, how does that sound?

Fourth grade will rock

Rising to the top,

We are on the fast track and we can’t be stopped!

P is for pretty, P is for Pink

P is for the power that you and I bring.

Power to make our future bright,

Power to shine like stars at night,

We will speak and read in English and write,

Add, subtract, multiply and divide

You will see us rising to the top,

We are on the fast track and we can’t be stopped!”

Watch Mahrukh and Laila’s students recite the Power of Pink:

*Power of Pink has been adapted from various sources to produce its final version

Classroom Epiphanies: The True Volume of a Cube

The Fellowship is a grueling process. Even though they are up against a monstrous challenge, with the thought of giving up as a constant, nagging presence, our Fellows experience beautiful moments that remind them why the struggle is all worth it. Moments in which they learn from their students and grow in ways they hadn’t fathomed. Here, 2013 Fellow Hina Mesiya narrates an experience from her classroom. Hina teaches Math and Science to Middle School girls.

“One of my students had been absent from school, which caused me to find out why. I learned that her family had been evicted from their home without notice, and were hunting around for a new place. Once they found one, I went to visit. She was living in a building that was completely under construction. I would never go inside that building in normal circumstances. Her mother opened the door, I stepped inside. Upon her mother closing the door, I saw my student had practiced calculating the volume of a cube on the back of the door. I had taught her this the day before.

As soon as I saw that it really changed my perspective about what can happen and how these kids feel about education.”

The resilience of our students shines through despite their circumstances. It is these stories that remind us why we Teach For Pakistan.


Why Teach For Pakistan?

MyraMyra Khan works in the Alumni Impact team with Fellows to support their Professional and Leadership Development over the Fellowship. She previously worked as a Program Officer at Teach For Pakistan.

How many children in Pakistan end up with the wrong childhood?

Roughly, aboutfor blog 25 million. Twenty-five million children at both the primary and secondary age in Pakistan are out of school. But that’s not all. We have to add the millions of children in school rote-learning, being beaten with corporal punishment and those who work six-hour shifts at mechanics workshops because realistically, that isn’t a great childhood either.

So what are you doing to change this?

The sad truth is that currently, you aren’t doing much. It is easy to turn a blind eye and think that it isn’t your problem. But the fact is that each and every day that we ignore it, the situation becomes much, much worse. Each passing day means another teacher has skipped school. Another student is disappointed when her teacher doesn’t come inside her classroom. Another principal takes a bribe from a teacher for not attending school. Another school turns into a ghost school when the last student who has been coming every day for the past month hoping to see his teacher there stops.

How does that affect me?

A bad or no education means literally millions of children are being left behind in Pakistan. Each generation that is born under or around the poverty line will unlikely get the education that helps them reach their full potential as humans and become contributing members of Pakistani society. Only a handful of children in Pakistan made it through to university level – around 7%. That gravely affects the working class demographic of Pakistan, the entire labour market and the entire economy. Do you still think it doesn’t affect you?

But how does it start?

As a child enrolls in school, often beyond the age that they should, they already have a developmental disadvantage because of their family background – they are malnourished, live in unsafe homes and their parents are usually illiterate. They attend failing schools that perpetuate their disadvantage, as most of their parents simply cannot afford to send them to schools that will give them an education that they deserve. Children grow up without the knowledge, skills and mindsets they need. They continue to live in the same socio-economic class throughout their lives, and then so do their children. This is how the cycle perpetuates.

Does it make a difference if I come in?

Yes. Because what Teach For Pakistan works to ensure that the Fellows in their classrooms make an impact on the 40, 60 or 100 students they teach, depending on how many grades and subjects they take on. You have the opportunity to be a teacher, leader, coach, role model and so much more for your students. Fellows on average find their classes are 4 years behind the grade level they should be at – and you change this. You will make a difference not only in your classroom scores, but also in your career post-Fellowship – because you have experience and exposure that not many people in Pakistan have.

But it’s not just us – people who support Teach For Pakistan and believe in the difference we make are some of Pakistan’s top changemakers –Dr. Ishrat Husain of IBA, Syed Babar Ali of LUMS, Dr. Quratalian Bakhteari of IDSP, Saad Amanullah of Gillette and P&G, and many more.

But will the Fellowship make me feel fulfilled? What if I’m missing out on other opportunities?

The Fellowship is a two-year commitment and we support any career path you decide to take after you complete the Fellowship. Through the Fellowship, you meet like-minded, thoughtful and committed individuals such as yourself and receive teaching and leadership training before you enter the classroom. The Fellowship is international recognized and many of our partners are excited to hire Fellows because of their experience.

Your fulfillment comes with the days you spend in your school. When your students run to meet you as you get off the bus to walk you through their gallis to their school. When parents tell you that no one has ever cared this much about their children’s future than you have. When you see that children growing up in dire poverty in Pakistan still have incredible, unprecedented amounts of talent, intelligence and spirit. When you know that you are the sole person harnessing that and making sure these children don’t end up with the wrong childhood. That is when you realize you have changed the future of Pakistan forever, for the better.

Classroom Impact: The Power of One Hour

Anam Palla from her classroom daysAnam Palla is a 2011 Alumna and currently works on the Teach For Pakistan team with 2012 and 2013 Fellows as their Academic Coordinator. Anam taught Math and Science to classes 6, 7 and 8 girls in Akhtar Colony, Karachi.

When I first entered their classroom I was shocked and astonished – the reality of the achievement gap hit me when I saw these third graders struggling with the first word that was written on the paper. “Do as much as you can,” I said as they started blankly. They could not read at all!

Sitting in our offices comfortably, we sometimes forget what the education emergency means for our students, communities and eventually our country. These classroom experiences not only humble us, but also ground our work in reality and make us more outcome-focused.

Today, I got an opportunity to see for myself the literacy program 2013 Fellows Asif Hassan and Salman Rajani have since initiated with their 3rd and 4th graders. The class was buzzing with excitement as each student was eagerly repeating after their teacher how to combine the sounds of ‘ra’ and ‘o’ and writing in their individual Jugnoo [a basic Urdu and English literacy program] books that were provided to them by Asif and Salman. Asif led the class while Salman went to students to help with individual queries.

As much as these students enjoy learning, they also love making noise and distracting others. One minute of ‘nothing to do’ and the students go ‘Hallelujah’! Handling them with their various antics, like the 5-4-3-2-1 count, is definitely not an easy task, especially after a hectic day of teaching rigorous academic content. Hats off to these guys for doing this with so much energy, day in and day out!

What I enjoyed most was that each student was eager to complete their work and get maximum points from their teacher. Asif checked and marked the work of each student. Only after that they could leave. Both Salman and Asif then worked with the struggling students until they understood and completed their work.

This one hour was the best hour of my day because it left me inspired and re-oriented me towards the work that we at Teach For Pakistan do.

I wanted to share a couple of quick learnings from today for all teachers:

    • Never ever give up on your students. The most struggling students today could be high achievers six months from now.
    • Play on your strengths and on each other’s strengths when working as a team. Some of us are better with projecting our voice and others can be stronger in one-on-one interactions. Some of us are great planners, while others execute more smoothly. All skills are needed and essential. Leveraging our strengths makes our weaknesses irrelevant.
    • There always is a way to work things out. It is not about working more, but working differently!

Classroom impact: every student matters

Bilal 2Bilal Afzal Khan is a 2012 Fellow at Teach For Pakistan and is currently teaching Maths to classes 8, 9 and 10 in Roshni School, Lahore. He graduated from the Lahore University of Management Sciences with a Major in Economics and Political Science.

Bilal was disappointed with his student Shaheen’s performance in his Math class. He called her mother in for a meeting to express his concerns and upon further discussion he made a startling discovery. Shaheen had fallen from the roof of her home almost three years ago, and had since faced many problems and suffered from a psychological disorder. She now failed to retain concepts in her mind. Bilal decided that he would not give up on her and pushed himself further to help her develop and succeed at Math.

Bilal invested more time in this particular student and introduced her to mental exercises while practicing simpler concepts.  She soon became more focused on her studies. Though she took longer than her peers to learn new concepts, she worked hard, and Bilal started to see improvements in her scores. When her end of year board exam results came out, Bilal was delighted to learn that she not only passed her Math exam but had performed well in all other subjects.

Bilal says, “If I had not availed the opportunity to join Teach For Pakistan, it would have never been possible for me to transform her life in this short period of time.”

Classroom impact: stepping beyond the academics

Fazil Maniya is a Teach For Pakistan Fellow in the 2012 Cohort. He teaches maths to classes 4 and 5 in Karachi. Fazil graduated with a Computer Science degree from the Institute of Business Administration, Karachi.

In this video Fazil talks about the powerful impact a teacher has on his/her students as a role model. By embodying and exemplifying them, a teacher can shape the values and mindsets of students in the classroom.

Community impact: investing parents to drive student excellence

Bareerah Hoorani is a Teach For Pakistan Fellow in the 2012 Cohort. She teaches Science and English to class 7 and 8 in Karachi. Bareerah graduated from the Institute of Business Administration.

In this video she talks about how she invested the parents of a struggling student in her achievement at school and how this resulted in academic gains for the student.

Classrooms & Communities: What’s the situation in Karachi’s schools?

Myra Khan was previously a Programme Officer at Teach For Pakistan and now works in the Alumni Impact team.

One thing we have found consistently as an organisation working in the education sector in Pakistan is that there is not enough knowledge about the problems that are faced in under-resourced schools and low-income communities.

Questions we are often asked by prospective Fellows are: Where do our Fellows work? What do the classrooms look like? What infrastructure is available? Where will my students come from?

Below is a slideshow of pictures I have taken on visits to Teach For Pakistan’s placement schools in Karachi, and I hope to answer some of your questions by this. Also check out our locations to find out which communities we work with in  Karachi and Lahore.

(Click on any picture to start the slideshow.)

All photographs belong to Teach For Pakistan.

Classroom Impact: Making history in Roshni School

KHQ_7862Ahmed Rubbie Jamshed  is a Fellow in the 2012 cohort. He teaches Science and English to Grades 8 and 9 at Roshni School in Lahore. Ahmed has done BSc from the Lahore School of Economics.

“Out of a total of 40 students that took the science exam, over half the class scored A grades, 10 students scored B grades and only a handful scored lesser than that”

Ahmed is a grade 7 science teacher at Roshni School in Lahore. He feels fortunate to have taught in what he refers to as bipolar surroundings. He has taught in schools which are both predominantly conservative, but cater to opposite genders. MAO School in Karachi was an all boys’ school where he taught in the summer and the students were mostly Pashtuns. Roshni School in Lahore- where he has been teaching for over a year- is an all girls’ school where 90% of the students wear hijabs. The former school had problems of aggression and physical violence whereas the latter school has students who are under confident and taciturn.


Ahmed says, “When I joined Roshni School, there was an ongoing problem with science classes because the school hadn’t had a proper science teacher in over 3 years. The students barely had any concepts and they were to appear for board exams of grade 8 in 5 months’ time. So the clock was ticking and I was given the responsibility of bringing their concepts to their respective grade levels and ultimately preparing 40 students for the board exams. It was a really hard task to balance the student learning outcomes from the national curriculum and the syllabus that the school was following but eventually I found the right mix. I held after school remediation, extra classes and even test sessions on Sundays. The foremost thing was the willingness of students to learn and their trust in me that I could guide them right”.

After a lot of effort on both parts, the students took the exams and were fairly happy with their performance. But when the results came out, nobody had expected what actually happened. Out of a total of 40 students that took the science exam, over half the class scored A grades, 10 students scored B grades and only a handful scored lesser than that.

This was by far the best result amongst all other subjects, and the best science result ever in Roshni School; in fact it was the best in all the schools in a 10 km radius.