Today, I am writing about my dear friend and an iconic personality for the youth and specially young women in Pakistan. Humaira is an advocate for girls’ education and for interactive teaching styles in Pakistan. She is the first female child in her family to be educated, and suffered opposition and abuse from community elders and her own father because of this.
When she was 10 years old, she was shocked when her infant cousin died because the child’s illiterate mother had not been able to read the expiry date on his fever medicine. This is what spurred her to a mission of literacy for girls. At the age of 12, still a student herself, she started classes for impoverished children in her neighborhood. At that time she and her little sister had to knock on doors and convince parents of the benefits of education. Today, a decade later, there are 1,200 students enrolled at their Dream Model Street School on the outskirts of Karachi.
Instead of the passive rote approach that is standard in government schools in Pakistan, Humaira applies interactive teaching methods. Her students learn through discovery, research and inquiry, use everyday items to visualize mathematical concepts, and visit companies and farms in the vicinity. She has also introduced e-learning in the primary and secondary classes.
Her innovative practices and teaching philosophy earned the Dream Model Street School the runner-up place for Pakistan in the Education For All category of the World Summit Youth Award in 2011. In 2012, Bachal was selected as Asia 21 Young Leader in Dhaka, Bangladesh. She was awarded Women of Impact Award in 2013 at 4th annual Women of the World Festival hosted at the Lincoln Center in New York City, United States. Not only this her efforts attracted the attention of Chime for Change and Madonna, who pledged to support girls’ education in Pakistan. “Humaira: The Dream Catcher”, a documentary film produced by Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, captures Humaira’s voice and brings it to the outside world. Through her work in the classroom and in the community, Humaira is tackling Pakistan’s education problem at every level. Looking forward, she hopes to build schools in neighboring communities in addition to inspiring more children, especially girls, to seek education, be empowered, and know their rights so they can defend themselves.
Lesson from these inspiring stories are if they can do #wetoo!