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Podcast: Mariam Khalique, A Teacher of Malala Yousafzai’s, is Building Futures Under Extreme Circumstances
By Rudina Vojvoda
NEW YORK, United States of America, 4 October 2013 – 5 October marks World Teachers’ Day, this year celebrated under the theme ‘A Call for Teachers!’. The day honours teachers who are working to build a sustainable future, with citizens who are fiercely changing their communities and the world around them. To commemorate the day, we spoke with a teacher who is doing just that, but under extreme circumstances.
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Mariam Khalique is a teacher of Malala Yousafzai’s, the student and education activist from Pakistan attacked by the Taliban last year. Both grew up in the same neighbourhood and attended the Khushal School and College in Swat, where Miriam is now the director. UNICEF podcast moderator Alex Goldmark caught up with her during the launch of new analysis by the EFA Global Monitoring Report, 'Education Transforms', of which Ms. Khalique is a spokesperson.
Importance of education
The latest report states that education empowers girls and young women, in particular, by increasing their chances of getting jobs, staying healthy and participating fully in society. In Pakistan, working women with good literacy skills earn 95 per cent more than women with weak literacy skills.
But, is the value of education well understood by women, themselves? And what are teachers doing to advance girls’ education? According to Ms. Khalique, teachers in Pakistan are working under extreme conditions to deliver on education. “We have lived in such circumstances that you can’t imagine,” said Ms. Khalique. “We are from Pashtun society in Pakistan, and we belong to a very conservative area. For us, it is very difficult to even come out of the house. But, after militancy, we have come to know the importance of education, and we know that things will keep on changing, so we take such risks.”
She added that teachers in Pakistan desperately need training, especially on current and innovative teaching methods, to be able to do their work properly. Referencing Malala’s speech to the United Nations earlier this year, Ms. Khalique said, “[Malala] said a teacher, a student, a book and a pen. I say, if we invest 80 per cent of efforts in teachers, if we train them, if we do the recruitment of teachers on merit level, the teacher can make the right use of the book, the pen and the student.”
A difficult – and worthwhile – path
For Ms. Khalique, the path to becoming a teacher was not an easy one. After finishing secondary school in Swat, she went on to college and undertook a bachelor’s degree in law and sociology. But, her passion for education pushed her to continue teaching at Khushal School and College, rather than practicising law. “My parents were very supportive, but the rest of my family, my relatives, were talking against me,” said Ms. Khalique. “But, with the passage of time, I made them realize how important it was, and they saw me, how I grew like a plant. They saw my success, and finally I became the director of school.”
Ms. Khalique stressed that education is not a favour, but a right to which everyone is entitled. “[Education] is not a right that is bestowed upon us by our fathers and brothers. This is an inborn right. This is not a favour that someone is doing with us. We should work hard and strive hard if we are deprived from it,” she said.