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Inspiration, Interview, Story, Uncategorized, Youth

Passion For Teaching

Aqeela Asifi, a refugee herself, began teaching Afghan refugees in Pakistan 20 years ago. Aqeela’s passion and dedication for education is seen in everything she says.
Aqeela says that she has always wanted to be a teacher and she was inspired by her teachers. Aqeela was bought up in a very liberal and enlightened family. Her parents were always supportive of their children’s education. The Afganistan she lived in was not like it is today. She says, at her time Kabul was a prosperous and vibrant city and there was no difference in how men and women were treated. “I lived in a time in Afghanistan that many haven’t seen”, she said. Asifi became a teacher of history and geography. But then things changed when civil war broke our in 1992. Aqeela, along with her husband and children had to leave the house they spent 6 years on making, school and students behind without even packing. It was a very painful time for her.
At the age of 26, Aseefa arrived at Kot Chandana refugee village in Mianwali. One of the most conservative areas of Punjab province. She was very shocked to see the other afghan refugees where girls weren’t allowed to get out of their homes, let alone get an education. Not a single girl there went to school except for the boys because the schools were for boys only.
“I had to be careful not to upset this very traditional community but I also felt a moral obligation to give girls and women there the basic human right of education,” she says.
She and her husband went door door talking to imams and elders in order to create awareness about education. She had to make them understand that education for girls is not harmful and is nothing to be scared of. They gradually started off from a small tent with handful of girls but after that when the number started to grow she had to work in shifts. It was only because of Aqeela and her dedication that she soon started to see a change in the girls. They were now more confident and more intelligent, helping their elders qith their business.
The tent she used to teach in is a proper permanent building now. Some of her students who studied until they become teenagers have opened up schools in Afghan province of Kunduz. She says she is very proud of them.
After 23 years of educating refugee girls, Aqeela Asifi has now been given the Nansen Refugee Award by the UN refugee agency UNHCR.
Members of Pakistan Speaks wish her all the best for the noble work that she has been carrying out in Mianwali for over 20 years.

Story: Mishall Dero (Team PS)
Picture credits: BBC URDU


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