Originally published on December 2, 2014.
Farzana, center, helping a student with a group projects
Despite modernization, class-based societies still exist in rural Pakistan. As a result, the communities in rural areas are lagging behind in terms of women’s education. In the village of Mirpur Buriro, in Sindh province’s Jacobabad district, the class divide is represented by the Buriro clan. Wealthy members are landlords and politicians, while lower-to-middle class clan members are peasants and laborers. Although it is uncommon for the women of this class to receive an education, Farzana Buriro is an exception. A member of the Buriro clan, she has been a teacher at the Mirpur Buriro Government Girls Primary School (GGPS) for the past 7 years, even though the odds were initially stacked against her. Her journey began three years ago.
Farzana recounts, “I was just living an ordinary life, and I was a traditional chalk-and-talk teacher just doing my job for the sake of doing it; yet deep within, I had a desire that nursed the hope of creating a difference someday.” She would use conventional methods to teach at school, she explains. “Just copying the lecture on the chalkboard became dull and monotonous for the schoolgirls and for me. Students were not at all motivated to study.” The school had low attendance and girls’ literacy rates in Jacobabad district was 39% according to Sindh Government data.
Things started to change when Farzana learned about the Training for Teachers program by Land O’Lakes, which was employed to enhance the quality of what was taught in schools. The program was part of Land O’Lakes International Development three-year Pakistan Food for Education (FFE) program funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Land O’Lakes distributed four liters of soybean oil as a monthly take-home ration to students and teachers who met the 80% or higher attendance requirement. With the program active in her region, and its impact on increasing girls’ enrollment dramatically, it created constraints due to a lack of space for all the students in the school. Due to poor technology and the small sizes of classrooms, Farzana initially just continued on with her conventional methods of teaching.
Eager to grow and make sure that the girls benefitted from the right learning environment at school, Farzana decided to attend the program’s workshops training teachers advanced skills in the methods and practices of teaching. She welcomed the chance to learn and improve, but it was a challenge for her to ask permission from her parents to attend the 10-day training at Provincial Institute of Teacher Education (PITE) in Nawabshah, located nearly 168 miles south of Jacobabad.
Farzana, right, shares a smile with her Headmistress Jamila Buriro.
Women in the village of Mirpur Buriro are not mobile, and it was rare for a female like Farzana to leave the village for a number of days. However, the Headmistress of the school, Jamila Buriro, played a major role in convincing Farzana’s parents to grant her permission. As head of the school and a member of the high clan of the Buriro tribe, Jamila has authority in the community. Taking the responsibility for female teachers on her shoulders, she also attended PITE. Land O’Lakes provided full support with respect to securing logistics and trainings. “Baji is my biggest support,” says Farzana, referring to Jamila with respect, using the word in the local language to refer to an elder sister.
After attending training at PITE, Farzana also attended additional training sessions organized by Land O’Lakes. The education helped enhance her content and pedagogic skills for classes she taught on English, mathematics, science, and basic computer knowledge. It helped her understand communicative and cooperative teaching approaches. “The training has completely transformed the way I teach. Now, I understand classroom dynamics and use modern techniques of classroom management and integrated learning.” Training opened new horizons for her. She teaches productively to two different classes in one room at the same time, in order to make efficient use of her limited space. In addition, Farzana became a master trainer, who can now train other teachers, providing sustainable, never-ending learning, and continuous professional development for the teachers in her community.
Student productivity has increased. Schoolgirls are motivated to attend classes. The literacy rate has increased to 59% according to Sindh Government data from 2012. Despite being from the lower class of the Buriro clan, Farzana now has a respectable position in the community. Other teachers look forward to her advice and receiving her training. She has become a role model for hundreds of schoolgirls and teachers in the village. “I am learning, re-learning, and then transferring it to schoolgirls and fellow teachers. My achievement is to deliver my knowledge. It’s the noblest profession.”
Farzana and others are now advocates of women’s education in the region; role models with a mission of empowering girls in the village, and breaking down class-based inequality. To date, a few of their impacts include:
487 teachers in the Jacobabad district now have content and pedagogic skills in English, mathematics, science, and basic computer knowledge
118 teachers, including Farzana, are fully-equipped master trainers, having received qualifications at PITE, Nawabshah, and Institute of Business Administration Community College in Jacobabad
Spreading the program’s reach, 369 additional teachers from Thull, Garhi Khairo, and Jacobabad have benefitted from this USDA program, and will empower schoolgirls in their region