Impact on the system
Our hope for the system change rests with our Alumni.
The two years of teaching and working with key stakeholders of the education and related systems, the Fellowship prepares our Alumni to attain positions of leadership in and beyond education, working collectively to build a movement for educational equity across Pakistan.
Ahmad Jawad Asghar was part of Teach For Pakistan’s first cohort in 2011. After completing the Fellowship, in his work with the World Bank, Ahmad took upon the challenge to work on the issue that remains at the heart of the educational crisis in Pakistan: teacher recruitment.Leading the initiative, Ahmad worked on improving the governance, accountability and administrative systems for teacher recruitment in Sindh.
Consequently, under this project, 16,800 new teachers were hired in Sindh through a merit-based recruitment process.
Feedback and support are extremely important for teachers to perform at their best.
Working as the Teaching & Learning Advisor at Mott Macdonald on the Third Punjab Education Sector Reform Project, Zain’s team has trained 3200 Assistant Education Officers (AEOs) to emerge as effective mentors and leaders for primary school teachers in 40,000 schools across Punjab.
In the project's first phase, Zain designed and conducted training for AEOs to understand the teaching practices effectively, so they can observe the classrooms and give feedback to the primary school teachers under their supervision. The training’s second part focused on equipping AEOs to conduct monthly Teacher Forum Meetings.
In the final phase of the project, to supplement and continue the learning and development of AEOs, Zain’s team developed a digital application where AEOs would be able to access extensive content related to the training.
FATIMA JAMIL KHAN
Fatima Jamil Khan is the moving spirit behind the Centre of Excellence for Financial Inclusion for persons with disabilities (PWD) in Sujawal, Sindh under the aegis of the Network of Organizations Working For People With Disabilities Pakistan (NOWPDP) where she is Senior Manager of Programs.
The Center plays a critical role in the skill development of PWDs and helps them get jobs on merit in the financial sector. As part of this program, Fatima also identifies children with disabilities in the communities where the Network operates, currently, 150 students are enrolled in its special education school.
“It is the little wins in empowering children with disabilities that keep Fatima going”
How did she land here?
NOWPDP is certainly not where Fatima’s journey began. She is a Teach For Pakistan Alum and was part of its 2014 Cohort. It was her last semester at the IBA, Karachi when she heard Tooba Akhtar, an Alumna of the 2011 batch talk about the TFP mission which led to what she describes as a “click!” in her mind. It surely was a life-altering moment for her.
Not ‘just’ a schoolteacher
Fatima wanted to be a part of something bigger than herself and TFP provided her with a grassroots-level experience that enabled her to undertake systemic change transforming innumerable lives.
She describes her two-year Fellowship at Government Primary School in PNT Colony Ghizri, Karachi as a life-changing experience. She taught mathematics to grades 3, 4 & 5. Her biggest takeaway from this experience is that every child learns differently. Her students’ challenges i.e., lack of opportunity and pervading poverty starkly juxtaposed the societal inequalities that keep children from underprivileged communities from realizing their true potential. Fatima fondly reminisces how she and her co-Fellows often visited the community and engaged with the parents and siblings of their students. She thinks that the pursuit of non-academic activities while striving for academic excellence of students was the best part of the TFP program.
Being smitten by the mission of quality education for every child, Fatima went on to acquire M.Ed - International Education Policy and Management from Vanderbilt Peabody College as a Fulbright scholar. It was her resolve to ensure inclusive and equitable education for children with disabilities that egged her to join the NOWPDP upon her return.
Learned as much as I taught
Fatima feels that the opportunity to observe the ecosystem of education during her Fellowship days prepared her well for the bigger systemic changes she aspired to bring into the system. She has worked closely with the Government of Sindh in creating sustainable policies and implementation mechanisms for children with disabilities. She has designed and executed teacher training programs for the delivery of special education that are being used provincewide. She has also helped the State Bank of Pakistan draft recommendations for the financial inclusion of children with disabilities. Fatima is also working with UN Women to improve the life outcomes for women with disabilities.
“I carry the Fellowship ethos into everything I do on daily basis”, Fatima declares
Asked about the most satisfying aspect of her Fellowship days and what she has done subsequently, Fatima feels that it is students like Zeeshan and Kainat and what they went on to achieve after completing school that is a source of satisfaction and pride for her. Many of her students are pursuing higher education. She is confident that having overcome the challenges of the inequitable education system through their grit and determination, they will go on to achieve their dreams. Most importantly; “they have become the loving, thinking, and engaged citizens the TFP mission envisages”, she concluded.
Onward and upward through technology
Students attending government and low-fee private schools in Pakistan struggle when applying for higher education institutes nationally. Himself a student in 2013, and Khurshid identified and solved this problem by creating a Facebook group. In 2018, he was recruited as a Fellow in Teach For Pakistan’s first cohort in Islamabad. Through his experience and leadership journey, he realized the potential that this work held and brought volunteers on board to create PrepareHow, an open-resource website that provides free help, guidance and practice tests to prepare candidates to take high-stakes examinations.
Securing seed funding and support from the National Incubation Center and GIKI, Khurshid officially launched PrepareHow in 2021. The initiative has helped over 31,000 students to prepare for entrance examinations for top higher education institutions across Pakistan. Khurshid hopes to make this initiative financially sustainable by working with career counseling departments in private schools, and colleges. However, the bulk of the resources will remain free for students.
Learning environment to Climate Change
Usually one would be hard-pressed to connect the dots between a government boys primary school on the outskirts of Islamabad and the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The connection would be even more difficult to imagine for parents who reluctantly allowed their freshly-minted engineer son to dedicate two years of his life to teaching a gaggle of 3rd to 5th graders for two years. Life, it seems has its own way of rewarding the brave. Hassan Dajana took this path after earning a civil engineering degree from the University of Engineering, Taxila in 2020 when he joined the Teach For Pakistan Fellowship program. The rest as they say is not just history but more a future rooted in the global effort for addressing climate change through grassroots-level community engagement. Talk about ‘think local, act global.’
The classroom experience Hassan got during his Fellowship teaching science and math, and especially his interactions with his student’s parents and their wider community convinced him of two things; one that collaboration, and tackling one challenge at a time help achieve even the most daunting tasks, and second a sedentary job behind a desk was surely not something that he aspired to.
|“Motivating one child to come to school is leadership; a leader need not be clad in a fancy suit speaking to a room filled with ‘important’ people.|
He sees his present position at Amal Academy, helping adults to realize their potential as a natural progression from his TFP Fellowship where he helped children to dream big and become loving, thinking, and engaged citizens. To date, he has helped more than 100 adults to develop skills like communication, leadership, teamwork, and public speaking to meet various industries’ human resource needs.
Amal Academy is supported by Stanford University, Acumen Fund, and Syed Babar Ali.
Hassan feels that traits picked up during his Fellowship years, like reflection, never losing hope, inclusion, and bringing about transformative change in a phased manner were the catalysts for choosing climate change as his field of specialty. He has been picked as a Fulbright scholar to study Community Centric Solution to Climate Change.
|“TFP’s Alumni movement is akin to sprinkling seeds in various soils; as they began to sprout and bloom, myriad institutions in Pakistan have become centers of excellence to spur transformative change at every level of Pakistani society.”|
Hassan feels that his association with the TFP Fellowship paved the way for his interactions with worldwide networks of like-minded climate change activists and thinkers. Through his association with the Global Shapers’ Community, and Climate Reality Leadership Corps, he got exposed to high-level deliberations at the UN office in Geneva and the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Seeking advice from one of his professors in the US where he spent a semester as an exchange student on whether to join the TFP Fellowship back in 2020, Hassan fondly remembers the advice he got;
“Go down that path and you will never look back.”
He keeps in touch with his students at the Islamabad Model School for Boys, Kortana, through frequent visits. Some of his students have moved to secondary schools where he keeps in touch with them through the TFP Fellows teaching them.
“One day what we did as TFP Fellows and later as Alumni will come to a convergence point where our students and their communities will join us in this movement for educational equality; that is when the transformational change in society will occur exponentially”, Hassan believes firmly.
Leaders are made
Zohra graduated from LUMS with a degree in Humanities/Social Sciences and joined the Teach For Pakistan Fellowship in 2012. She was placed in Govt Girls Primary school in Chanacer Goth, Karachi to teach English, Math, Science, and Social Studies to class 3., Zohra then went on to study Learning and Instruction as a Fulbright scholar at Vanderbilt University in the US, winning the Peabody Award for Outstanding Professional Promise. Upon her return to Pakistan, Zohra committed 4 years to The Citizens Foundation where she designed a novel new curriculum of early childhood education for its 1500 schools across Pakistan -- including 100+ original storybooks, toys, and training materials. Later, Zohra joined Durbeen, a non-profit working to improve public sector education in Sindh through better quality teachers. For the past two years, she has been working as a senior faculty member at a govt college adopted by Durbeen in Hussainabad, Karachi. The college aims to reform teacher education through international-standard training to produce graduates who serve in public sector schools.
Anam Pala from Colony to Constellation:
Anam Palla is among the fortunate few to have studied at one of the top universities in Pakistan. She was part of Teach For Pakistan’s very first cohort in 2011 and joined as a fresh graduate from the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), Karachi.
“COO and CEO were never my milestones in life”, is how she describes her gravitation toward the TFP mission of educational equality. She aspired to bring about a meaningful change in people’s lives;
“but to be honest, I never seriously thought about teaching”, she confesses.
From the comfortable environs of her home, it was quite a trip to the narrow lanes of Karachi’s Akhtar Colony where the Government Girls Secondary school was located. What she found waiting for her in the dimly lit classrooms was actually a constellation of bright stars, waiting for their galactic voyager.
|Girl O girl! what a journey it has been!|
Her family, friends, and peers had preconceived notions about what a bright future for a brilliant student like her should look like, and teaching at a public school was definitely not it. “The good thing is that my heart was in it and I knew I could get into the microcosm of a bigger scheme of things; the Fellowship was always going to be a pathway to transformative change”, she said.
During her Fellowship, Anam taught math and science to girls in classes 6, 7, and 8. Though she taught fewer than 200 girls in person, indirectly she feels that she was able to connect with thousands of people through her interactions with students’ parents, siblings, members of the wider community, and other teachers at the school.
|“I would show up at students’ homes to check what was happening; no more excuses for not doing homework”, Anam let on mischievously|
She had the opportunity to train 20 other teachers in tailoring lesson plans to students’ needs, closing learning gaps, and engendering a sense of self-esteem among them; each teacher was teaching around 200 students. At a such young age, she was already impacting more than 4000+ lives. The most lasting impact she hopes to have made on her students is to help them become independent learners; “not just at school subjects, but learning life skills”, she adds. The realization that it is not a hero or a great teacher who changes lives, but their innate abilities that enable them to scale any mountain, is the most important part of any child’s learning, she believes.
Anam is now working as Director-Learning Games at Knowledge Platform, an ed-tech company working on learning solutions. One of the most interesting pilots she has recently worked on is an Artificial Intelligence educational program that can tailor learning to an individual child’s needs. Imagine the potential for this, particularly in terms of learners with special needs and out-of-school children that we hope to bring back into the formal education system!
Referring to the most lasting impact the TFP experience has had on her life, Anam feels it has to be the sense of responsibility she expected from her students; “how can you not apply it to yourself”, she asks.
Explaining the synergies between her Fellowship days and the subsequent work she has undertaken, Anam felt that no matter how ‘grand’ the policy reforms and systemic changes, the nuance and depth for her always come from the hands-on experience she gained at the TFP. Marrying technology and education requires background and context of systems and processes, it helps in designing automation and AI programs, she explained.
TFP’s mission, Anam feels has become part of her DNA. She has kept ‘systemic change’ the TFP mantra at the center of everything she does. She feels that she may not think about the TFP Alumni movement on a day-to-day basis; “just like we breathe without thinking about it, the desire to bring about transformative change is as natural to me as breathing”, she concluded.
Anam continues to impact innumerable lives, engendering systemic change, and inspiring others to hop onto her starship to expand the horizons and bring newer constellations into the fold of quality education through equality.
Two-year Fellowship; Lifelong Commitment
A young finance professional in 2013 when she joined Teach For Pakistan movement, Hina Saleem Mesiya, a mid-career policy, and research professional today, one constant has been her commitment to bringing transformative change in the lives of children, especially girls in rural Pakistan. From Karachi where she started this journey to her Master’s degree in International Education Policy from Harvard University to her latest policy brief for the Brookings Institution in Washington, inclusive, equitable, and quality education for underprivileged children remains Hina’s passion.
During her TFP Fellowship, Hina steered the educational journeys of 60 students in 6th and 7th grade in Karachi’s Shah Rasool Colony. She started off teaching a combination of subjects, but realizing there was an urgent need to work on the literacy skills development of her students, she focused on teaching English.
Hina introduced a differentiated teaching approach in view of the stark difference in the learning levels of students. From remedial classes for struggling students to advance classes for outperforming pupils, she experienced complete freedom as a TFP Fellow to make decisions to ensure her students excel and aspire to higher education.
“Whenever I design or plan anything; I revert to the Lesson Planning exercise we learned during the Fellowship days.” Says Hina
She noticed that besides the out-of-school children, completion of school education and onward pursuit of college and university education due to inequity was keeping the youth from dreaming big and realizing their potential. As part of her Community Development Project at the school, she established Karwaan-e-Aleph, an after-school community learning space together with the wider school community. Basic literacy and computer skills helped children in this community to enroll in colleges.
Devoid of economic opportunities, her students’ eco-system blocked their entry to university education. Witnessing the impact of challenges such as lack of clean water, substandard sanitation, and widespread poverty, her exposure at the grassroots level, motivated Hina to think of ways to mobilize resources at the state/province and local levels to ensure quality education for all children.
After her Fellowship, she was determined to continue in the education sector where she pursued joint initiatives of the provincial government and its development partners aimed at inclusive and equitable education for all.
Upon her return from Harvard, Hina got opportunities to work for the Global Partnership for Education and the World Bank Group, she feels that it helped her learn approaches to improve the quality of education, particularly for children in rural areas.
Her abiding interest in transforming the education system, particularly in rural and underserved areas brought her to The Citizen’s Foundation in 2019.
“Only 3/10 girls and 5/10 boys in the 5-16 age bracket are able to go to school in Sindh”, she said. “A bigger challenge, even for the kids enrolled in school, only 2 / 5 children can read a story in any language”, she added.
As the Head of Literacy and Life Skills at the TCF, Hina helped set up multiple centers in rural areas to enroll out-of-school children. She then focused on ensuring these children complete their schooling and tapped into innovative economic opportunities to meet their higher education needs.
Looking back, Hina feels that Teach For Pakistan Fellowship proved to be the incubator for her ideas about transforming the education sector. It allowed her to take her classroom experience and manifest it through a broader set of policy reforms in education. Looking forward to designing participatory approaches that include the voices of the children and uplifting the dreams and aspirations of underserved communities, Hina is living proof that one can take a Fellow out of the TFP, but cannot take TFP out of the Alumni.
From bookkeeping to writing books
Azma Humayun was a final year BBA student majoring in Finance at IBA, Karachi in 2011. She didn’t have any plans, a job hunt was definitely on the cards, but she had no inkling about a career. A couple of opportunities that came her way did not particularly excite her. An internship or two in finance was enough for her to know that she did not want to “keep books all her life.” Little did she know that she would end up loving writing books, textbooks for children to be more precise.
|“Teach For Pakistan was nascent, but was gaining traction among fresh graduates”, says Azma Humayun, TFP Alumni and Senior Manager-Academics at The Citizens Foundation|
Like a bee to honey
At a career fair at IBA, Azma saw a very lively and engaging recruiter almost dragging students into her booth. Turned out it was a TFP, a young nonprofit’s stall, and the recruiter was none other than its equally youthful founder/CEO Khadija Bakhtiar. Though the teaching Fellowship program had not yet started. The challenge of providing quality education to children from underserved localities and Khadija’s iridescent passion were enough for her to get hooked for life on TFP’s mission of providing quality education to all children.
“It was a leap of faith on my part and soon TFP had a flock of passionate followers who eventually became leaders in their own right”, is how Azma describes her early, heady days as a TFP Fellow.
Why waste BBA Finance over teaching?
Deciding to join the TFP is one thing but winning over the well-meaning Samaritans is another. There was opposition from family and friends. “Anyone can teach; why waste your education?” was the initial reaction. It took a while for people close to Azma to process the exciting stuff she narrated about her students’ transformation. Soon her updates on the kids’ learning achievements, their parents’ enhanced engagement, and the wider school community’s desire to get involved endeared everyone around her to the cause of educational equality.
“Had a blast throughout the Fellowship. It did have challenges, but TFP sends you in prepared”
TFP Summer Institute – a six-week boot camp in pedagogy, community engagement, and communication -- really prepares you for what awaits at the school, according to Azma. She feels that expecting fresh graduates to teach at a school without the rigorous preparation of Summer Institute is akin to throwing them at the deep end of the pool; “and it won’t go swimmingly, I can assure you”, she adds.
Aim high and have fun learning
Asked to identify one extraordinary impact she had on her students during her Fellowship, Azma said her foremost objective was to enable her students to dream big and aim high. She helped them to gain confidence in themselves and their ability to determine their destiny. In terms of experience, she wanted her students to feel joy in studying. One of her students, Shazia Kanwal has recently graduated from IBA. Countless others have gone on to complete higher education and many often share their career trajectories with her. “Cannot think of a greater reward”, she shared with a glow of satisfaction on her face.
“You are what you do, and I do education”
Azma feels that the TFP changed her life’s trajectory. Her boss at The Citizens Foundation where she is Senior Manager-Academics, recently asked her the secret to her seemingly inexhaustible patience with everything. “My training at TFP”, is how she responded without a moment’s hesitation.
Transformational change & Systemic Impact
From teaching a classroom of 50 kids as a TFP Fellow to providing education support to 40 schools to working on academic designs for 1200 schools to designing a nationwide education program as part of TFP’s Alumni movement, Azma’s impact and ability to bring about transformational, systemic changes in the education sector know no bounds. Curriculums and textbooks developed under her guidance are being used in schools all across Pakistan. In this she feels, backward planning and breaking down large jigsaw puzzles into small pieces, a skill she mastered during her TFP Fellowship, has been invaluable. “Everything I do is stamped by my TFP experience”, she adds proudly.
TFP Alumni are shapeshifters
Azma thinks of her TFP Avatar daily because her post-Fellowship work extends directly from her experiences at the TFP. “I have been fortunate to land in places where I could expand my TFP experiences and touch an ever-increasing number of lives”, she said. “My role in the Alumni movement is to ensure that every child gets the quality education it deserves”, she concluded.
Farmers to fishmongers; education for all
Most people would give their right arm and perhaps the left leg too to land a job at one of the leading international consulting firms or FMCG. To be accepted at two requires an excellent academic record, a sharp intellect, and a special drive to move ahead in life. To then leave both to teach children from disadvantaged backgrounds takes not just courage but an unrelenting desire to bring transformative change in society through educational equality and leadership development. Hammad had an advantage though; he inherited the love for education from his grandfather who as a landowner made sure that people on and around his farmland sent their kids to school.
Himself a merit scholar throughout his school years at the Beaconhouse, Hammad earned a degree in Electrical Engineering from the National University of Science and Technology and immediately felt lost for a greater purpose in life. Coming across Teach For Pakistan at a career fair provided Hammad with a light-bulb moment, he felt an immediate connection with his grandfather’s mission. He applied for the TFP Fellowship, but the lure of the corporate world trumped and he instead accepted a position at Phillip Morris. However, during the year he worked there, he frequently questioned “what exactly am I doing here?” This led him to join the TFP’s 2014 cohort. The transition was not easy as like most Fellows, Hammad too faced peer and family resistance to dedicating two years of his life to teaching. To appease his parents, he also enrolled in an MBA program at the Institute of Business Administration, Karachi.
|“Ibrahim Haidri is a far cry from the sanitized, airconditioned environs of an international consulting firm.”|
In the school in Ibrahim Haidri, a fishermen’s community in one of Karachi’s slums many of Hammad’s students came from the fishmongers’ community. He taught English, Science, and Math to the 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. The principal at Hammad’s school who was soon to become one of his closest collaborators and enablers was initially surprised when he requested that teaching Urdu be added to his responsibilities.
Soon Hammad was helping students prepare for their matriculation exams too. Between a derelict building from across the school, a neighborhood mosque, and the principal’s home, Hammad taught after-school classes and held regular parent-teacher meetings. He also established the first library and literacy center in Ibrahim Haidri during his Fellowship.
|“Community mobilization enhanced participation in PTMs and everyone got involved with children’s education.”|
Hammad’s initiative, work ethic, and deep affinity with the community led to exciting projects. He fondly remembers how he got everyone from young children to the elderly involved in sprucing up and repainting the school in more lively colors to make it inviting for the pupils, faculty, and visitors alike. Amidst all of this, Hammad’s life took a tragic turn. His mother died. He is grateful for the support from the school community that helped him come to terms with his personal loss.
|“My students were important decision-makers and collaborators throughout this process; it increased their investment and engagement with the community’s wellbeing.”|
His post Fellowship life saw him teaching Mathematics at the Beaconhouse for six months before becoming the O Levels’ Career Counsellor there. About two years down the road the corporate world beckoned again. This time it was Proctor & Gamble, but regardless of the benefits and comforts of the corporate job, his stint lasted only a year. “I finally realized that my true passion and calling lay in education”
There has been no looking back since his joining The Citizens Foundation where he now works as Head of TCF College. He credits his journey within the education sector as heavily influenced by his TFP experience. Clarity of purpose, the importance of patience, self-reflection, and gratitude for the opportunity to help others realize their dreams are some of the abiding traits, he believes the TFP has ingrained in him.
Hammad introduced a Community Outreach Program at TCF College where the aim is to present the college model to parents and the community to increase student enrolment in higher education.
|“A few years back, only a dozen or so students from a community would apply to colleges; now the number of applicants runs into hundreds.”|
As a lifelong member of the TFP Alumni movement, Hammad feels a strong commitment to Teach For Pakistan’s vision of educational equality and continues to strive for transformational change in society where every child is educated to become a loving, thinking, and engaged citizen.
Leading Education Reforms in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Mehjabeen was part of Teach For Pakistan's first Fellowship cohort in 2011 in Karachi.
After leading the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) program supporting education provision for 55,000 marginalized children in urban slums and remote rural areas in the province of Sindh, Mehjabeen is currently working as an Education Advisor on a £283.2M program with the FCDO to lead the education sector reforms in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. She is working on strengthening the public education system by improving pedagogy in classrooms. This includes providing technical inputs on education policies, quality assured teaching and learning materials, monitoring results and ensuring that value for money is being achieved.