The Before, After, and the Present
By Ali Raza Jafri
Teach For Pakistan 2019 Fellow.
Before: I was sitting in the corridor outside 4A, soaking the last of the winter sun, when I heard the sound of the tiny feet approaching me. My students ran towards me, with excited exchanges bouncing off their happy faces. One of my students, Faizan, mentioned that he was going to meet his Nani in Mardan. Hasnain told me that he was going to play cricket in the clearing near the waterfall, Tauseef informed us that his chachu was coming to visit and he was going to show the town around to his cousins. I was happy they had planned so much for their break. But, being a teacher, I couldn’t help but spoil their fun a bit. I told them about the work I was planning for them when they came back from their break. But oddly enough, they were excited about reading new stories and learning about the plants they had planted as part of their science experiment for class. As the school day was ending, my students and I took some pictures and decided to call each other every day to talk about all the new places we went to and the new things we did.
After: My students were scared. They hadn't been allowed outside for days now. They knew that schools were to be reopened on the 12th of April, but the situation was still unsure. Faizan was not going to Mardan, Tauseef's chachu was not coming over, Hasnain was going to have to practice cricket at home, and my calls were not going to be about their daily adventures anymore.
My students and I shared this predominant feeling: uncertainty. All of us were constantly surrounded with dates and deadlines but none of us had any clarity about when things would go back to normal. However, during this time, we realized that we might not have our classroom, but we have willpower and our strong sense of community. They organised themselves and collected information from each other; they called their classmates who lived near their uncles houses and even found those students who lived in proximity to their parents’ friend’s houses. Once we compiled everyone’s contact information, I reached out to each student and created a WhatsApp group where we could continue our learning and not be deterred by the current circumstances.
Present: This time around when it was announced that the school lockdown was extended, my students and I weren’t scared, we had created a channel of communication and we knew that we have what it takes to continue working towards our goals and our dreams. Today, Hasnain plays with his brother every day before coming to our WhatsApp class, Tauseef tells his cousins about the stories he has read in class, and Faizan enjoys doing his assignments so much he starts on the work assigned for the next week before it’s even begun.
My students have shown me what it means to be truly resilient in the face of uncertainty. We don’t have the space we used to share with each other but we still have each other, and most importantly we have persistence that will get us through this time. We look forward to school reopening, but the fear of not having those reliable structures doesn't paralyze us anymore. We have a newfound respect for our own strengths and a belief in our abilities to overcome any challenge that comes our way. As I hear beautiful stories from my student's every day, I am left with a resounding feeling that no matter what, we will be okay!
Ali Raza Jafri is a NUST graduate and a 2019 Teach For Pakistan Fellow teaching English and Social Studies to 4th graders at a school in Noor Pur Shahan.