New Jersey Resident Returns From Summer Teaching Assignment at Ibtida-sponsored School in Northern Pakistan
(EMAILWIRE.COM, September 15, 2006) CLAYTON, NJ AND PHILADELPHIA, PA—New Jersey resident, SHAZIA RIAZ, just returned from a two-month teaching assignment at the Ibtida-sponsored Mansehra Model School in Mansehra, Pakistan.
Mansehra, a town of roughly half a million people in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan, had several schools before the Mansehra Model School was formed. However, the quality of education in the town’s government-run schools was and remains poor, and the cost of private schools is out of reach for many of Mansehra’s lower-income residents.
The Mansehra Model School helps fill the gap in education for these lower-income residents by heavily subsidizing tuition costs. The school aims to provide students with a quality, secular education with an emphasis on gender equality, human rights, and civic responsibility. When the school opened in April 1999, it had only two teachers and 30 students that ranged in age from 5 to 12 years. By the summer of 2006, the Mansehra Model School had moved into a new building and grown to include five separate grade levels with six teachers and 160 students, half of whom are girls.
“Pakistan is in need of educators,” said Riaz. “I believe education can serve as a building block for people to gain broader insight, which can lead to trust, which will then ideally lead to improved relations within the nation, with the nation’s neighbors, and with the global community.”
“Sending volunteers from the US and England to the Mansehra Model School fits into our overall purpose of presenting children living in the rural areas of Pakistan with an alternate worldview,” said Nuzhat Ahmad, President of Ibtida. “The feedback we’ve received from the teachers as well as the students about their experience with Shazia and the other volunteers has been tremendous. The time Shazia, and her fellow volunteer teachers from the United Kingdom, spent in the schools not only provided tangible benefits to the children and teachers, such as computer and English language classes, but also many intangible benefits—like opening the minds of the students to another way of looking at the world.”
“One of our most useful accomplishments was in the area of teacher capacity building,” added Riaz, speaking of her summer experience in Mansehra. “We were able to work with the school’s full-time teachers to craft activity-based learning techniques to spark the minds of students. Providing the students with an alternative to rote learning and the opportunity to exercise their creative and critical thought processes was very exciting.”
Taking its name from the Urdu word for “new beginning,” Ibtida is a volunteer-driven, non-religious, non-political, US-based 501(c)3 non-profit organization working to provide quality education to underprivileged children living in the rural areas of Pakistan. Ibtida was founded in 2003 by a group of individuals who share the belief that the only way to break the vicious cycle of poverty and ignorance is through education. Ibtida schools and projects are based on a curriculum that emphasizes gender equality, tolerance, and respect for human rights. For more information, please visit http://www.ibtida.org.
ABOUT Nuzhat Ahmad
In addition to her active academic life as Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology at the University of Pennsylvania, Nuzhat Ahmad, President of Ibtida, devotes considerable time to running the organization. She travels to Ibtida schools at least once a year and has personally taught in them. Nuzhat was born and brought up in Pakistan and currently lives in Philadelphia. Nuzhat can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT Shazia Riaz
Shazia Riaz is a caseworker with Helping Hand Behavior Health in Clayton, New Jersey. She specializes in group therapy for the schizophrenic and bipolar populations. Shazia received her bachelor’s in psychology from the University of Alberta in Edmonton. Shazia can be reached at email@example.com.
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