Oct 24, 2009 - terrorism    32 Comments

My finest hour

A few months back, I started teaching at a local university as visiting faculty. The reactions I got varied from extremely flattering to downright insulting to my decision. One foreigner I know mocked it with a very derisive “So what will you achieve by teaching rich kids in air conditioned classrooms?” Honestly, at that point in time, I had no idea how to respond to that scathing comment. I seriously did not know what I am supposed to do as a teacher apart from imparting knowledge on the subject I teach.

In the past three months that I have been teaching, I have had my highs and lows. I have had some very good days and some not so good days, but one remarkable change that I have seen in my students is that they want to discuss issues instead of just going through the lectures like they did in the first couple of weeks. They question, they debate, they ponder, they contest, they deliberate, they argue and they have learnt to respect different views even when they don’t agree with them. This is something that we don’t often see in Pakistan and for a teacher, it is one of the most encouraging and heartening sights.

On Wednesday, I got an email from my student Bemisal saying that the student body is extremely distressed at the twin bombing incident at Islamic International University. What irked them most was the government’s cavalier attitude towards the safety and security of the students and the fact that most provincial governments refused to provide security to the institutions of learning and closed them down till October 26th. They wanted to protest against the acts of terror and government’s apathy towards its citizens. They also wanted to show solidarity with the students who died at the twin blasts on October 21st 2009.

In two days time, they managed to not only mobilize other students and made their presence felt with out any prior activism experience; they did so in face of opposition from their parents and families who tried to discourage them from stepping out of the secure confines of their homes. They did it when a local tv channel aired the news that a suspected bomber wearing a suicide jacket was seen in the vicinity of the area of protest.

Seeing my students at the protest, demanding their constitutional rights with a consciousness and confidence not common amongst most Pakistani, was perhaps my finest hour as a teacher. Arfa, Sabah, Danish, Hiba, Umair, Bemisal, Farwa, Aqsa and Ahmed, you guys made me proud today (most of them are girls, so double hurrah for them). Looks like all those debates in the class and gargles I took after every three hour session were well worth it. If anyone mocks me any more and say what have I achieved by teaching rich kids in air conditioned classrooms, I would say that I played my tiny little part in bringing them out on the streets. They don’t need to be out on the streets but they decided that they don’t want to stay apathetic and stepped up to claim their right and space. How is that for an achievement?

PS: Those who want to support their efforts in future can stay connected through their facebook group

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32 Comments

  • Thank you ! 🙂

    We always talk about doing somehting in class and during breaks, but this was a moment we had to prove our words. and to be honest, its because of teachers like you who supported us, who gave us room to develop our own opinions and to think as to what we want to achieve in life. We are really grateful to have you as a teacher and a guide, you havnt only been our supporter , but to be honest you have been our inspiration as well. Thank you!

    i think for each of us it was the finest hour of our lives as well because we felt we achieved something today! 🙂

    Thank you! and we cherish every class we have with you! 🙂

  • wow makes me want to take a class at your uni man… DAHSHADGARDI KO HAM NAHI MANTE..HAM NAHI MANTE 🙂

    Grt to be there..a lot of ppl told me on twitter what difference does a days protest make? Well if we all thought like that then Rosa parks wud never have made that small step on the bus to start the american civil rights movement!

    To me, an outsider to your classes, i saw motivated, and inspired youth, passionate enough to make a heart grow heavy.

    Congratulations, you all have woken my spirit up!

    Pretty soon you all will be featured in the laid back show
    at http://www.laidbackshow.com
    keep watching this space.

  • great work – it’s really inspirational.

  • Tez! You rock! and make us all proud!!

    Hats off to you for staying the course (sorry for using GWB cliche; in your case it is so true! though!) even when facing great personal upheavals!

    Cheers! May Pakistan is saved by the up-n-coming generation!

    -Zoobee n Hopeful!

  • The decision to close Pakistan’s universities and schools does not digest me….this will only motivate terrorist (talibanis) to create such situations more and more…..they dont want to see people going to schools and colleges….and they succeeded in their fuckin cause now as the government closed them..

  • Good job, Tazeen! You must be so proud of your students. Well done.

  • like the teacher in the movie great debaters..u should be proud.. good work..somehow i though indian students (me being one)have better social awareness than ppl at ur country.happy to see am wrong..free

  • Hats off.

  • Bravo, I would love to be in your class. 🙂

  • Ok so here’s what I think. I think that this whole drama doesn’t make sense at all! Youth against terrorism LOL the whole damned country is against terrorism, what’s NEWS here? What shit of a difference does standing, laughing and chit chatting in front of the press club make? You guys made it look as though the whole Islamabad thing was a JOKE!

    Truth is that you used those kids as a tool to gain fame, and you used current affairs as a tool to become a celebrity – too bad your plans didn’t succeed and not much attention was given to the whole drama. And after all that’s said and done, what I fail to understand is that how come it’s your “FINEST HOUR” what did you do? You are such a WANNA BE. You risked those kids’ life to gain fame, huh?

    Too much of a cost I think! And Irony is that you still want to brag about it! Oh well, we can only pray!

  • Great Work

  • This is all very encouraging. Keep it up.

  • As a Teaching Assistant i can imagine how much difference a teacher with right attitude can make. It’s the main problem of Pakistan that these rich kids who can really make a difference by using their education and abilities doesn’t make any contribution to society. And to make them understand about their role and that they can make a difference in the society by raising their voice.

  • Do not let those negative voices rattle you for a second. I can’t believe someone would say that to you for trying to teach!!! Perhaps they are in need of an education?

    Really glad you got to experience this moment with your students and I applaud their courage.

  • Great. This is something to cheer us up in the middle of the death and destruction around us: ‘that students care’. It is nice to know that you have found students who appreciate what you have to teach. My best wishes.

    I don’t think change will be easy. As long as people care about the state of affairs, it definitely is possible. Let us hope.

  • its really not important whether to sit in an air conditional class room or somwhere under a shady tree over barren land..the thing that count is that that a student sitting somwhere in lavish class room must have an wareness taht there is a world outside who needs the helping of hand of a concious mind…iam really happy that you student are much concerned about world around .

  • Good job!

  • Hello tazeen
    I am happy that you gave to your pupils the envy(urge) to show their opinion on it this rise(climb) of violence in this continent.
    I greet the courage of your nation in front of Taliban and of the fear which they inspire.
    As a lot of people in the world I am worried about what takes place in this region where the world peace could fall over to the horror.
    In very soon.

  • Bonjour Tazeen,

    Let me congratulate first that you managed to find a job in these difficult times. As Bertold Brecht once said “a head that cannot feed his belly is a stupid head”.

    As to your teachings and what you tell here, it is clear that you help them to become responsible adults. But be careful, Tazeen, you are walking on a tight rope.

    Best wishes
    Georg

  • encouraging and inspiring 🙂

  • A small surprise maybe same a poisoned little gift, lol.

    my blog :
    http://africantal.blogspot.com/

  • Tazeen, though I’m not sure whether protests and writing creative banners does any good But just sitting apathetically also isn’t any better. Especially when the Country is like literally going to the goons.

    But I guess, the most important thing you might have taught them is to learn to respect different views even when you don’t agree with them.

  • Doing something, anything always has an impact….

  • no spelling mistakes on the banners!! 😛

  • Yup. Something worked. Well done, you. There are no magic wands but if you can at least persuade a few people to take a step back and question the status quo without their hurting somebody else in the process you’ve done a good job.

  • i am confused. what is it exactly that they achieved by this?

  • This is fantastic 🙂 Lemme know the next time your students arrange something. In Karachi I presume?

  • I was invited to commit myself to the Teach for America program in the US; aimed at targeting impoverished pockets of the nation towards more educational parity and standards.

    I declined. Teaching is TOUGH as hell – I rather stand in the pits of a derivatives trading desk in Chicago, then teach. That is how intimidated and respectful I am for the teachers around the world who do the great work they do.

    GL HF.

  • “First they came for the Hindus, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Hindu;
    Then they came for the Sikhs, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Sikh;…….
    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

    Too late for the dwellers of the “land of the pure”. You were silent and provided consent for too long.

  • who desrves it more than you.

    atta girl!

  • These kids have made all of us very very proud! 🙂

    http://yellO.pk

  • Working ‘with’ and ‘on’ young minds are tricky propositions; one often switches from doing one to doing the other and often times that can prove fateful …
    Good going Tazeen.
    Merely a word of caution from one educator to another 🙂 …take it for whatever it’s worth.

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