A Tenacious Teacher from the Mountains of Pakistan

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly added to the existing challenges within education systems, especially, in the most deprived communities of the world, including those in Pakistan.

The Hattian Bala District in Pakistan-administered Kashmir is home to around 230,529 people, with their livelihood mostly dependant on the region’s natural resources. The unavailability of sufficient water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), coupled with a poor infrastructure, a rough topography and harsh weather have created a very vulnerable and fragile environment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, in such mountainous terrain, commuting to school for children is a daunting task, which itself is a major impediment in the continuity of education. Nevertheless, at times, invisible challenges open the door for innovation and creative ideas for solutions.

Mr. Tariq Nazir Chak, a resident of Khorian village in the Hattian Bala District has proved to be an epitome of an ideal teacher in the distressing days of COVID-19. It is no exaggeration to say that the world is at a crossroads and that, now more than ever, we must work with teachers to protect the right to education for all, and guide it into the unfolding landscape brought about by the pandemic.

An enthusiastic local schoolteacher at Khorian Primary School, Mr. Chak has dedicated his life to education in its widest sense. School closures in his locality owing to COVID-19 challenged him to find alternatives to provide the students with continuing education.

The UNESCO Office in Islamabad has been working on the promotion of girls' education in most marginalized areas in the country through its multi-year Girls’ Right to Education Programme in Pakistan (GREP). Funded by multiple donors including the Government of Pakistan, and under the Malala Funds-in-Trust, the programme aims at improving access to, retention and quality of girls’ primary education in most of the country’s marginalized areas, in both formal and non-formal settings. 

Thus, with the help of UNESCO’s GREP, which mobilizes local communities and seeks to improve the capacity of relevant provincial and district education officers to create an enabling school environment for quality girls’ education, Mr. Chak proactively arranged meetings with local education partners, school management committees (SMCs), and parents to support them with tutoring for the students.. established with support from the Government of Pakistan, UNESCO is promoting girls’ education by implementing the GREP in the most isolated and marginalized districts in the country.  

After the lockdown, we thought our doors to seek education might never open due to the pandemic. However, our teacher Mr. Chak has given hope and joy by teaching us diligently to practice the protective measures of COVID-19.  
Students, Asma Arif and Nosheen
Mr. Chak among his pupils
Mr. Chak, Khorian Primary School's teacher, among his pupils

Apart from teaching his students in morning and evening sessions, with the help of community members, Mr. Chak offered books to the needy children. Firmly believing that students deserved a better environment on their return to school, he was also involved in school repair work, and has established contact with local NGOs to improve the socio-economic conditions of families affected by COVID-19.

Mr. Chak is an asset to our village and beyond. It is his love for education that inspires him to spread knowledge far and wide. He is indeed a source of motivation for us all to excel in our efforts in the face of COVID-19.
Student Muhammad Abid

While sharing their views to the community, SMC members appreciated the unconditional services of Mr. Chak in testing times of COVID-19:

The government may join hands with other organizations for ‘Building Back Better’ in education and encourage selfless souls like Mr. Chak for his services.  
SMC members
SMC members 1
SMC members 2

The whole community including students, parents, fellow teachers and education officials extended laurels to Mr. Chak on World Teachers Day for his undying efforts as a teacher who led in crisis and tried to reimagine a better future for all.

Although Mr. Chak has taken pride while helping his students and community alike, he is aware of the fact that despite governments’ efforts to cope with the pandemic, individual efforts must collaborate in helping authorities with school reopening, educating fellow teachers and ensuring overall safety in the current and post-pandemic situations.

UNESCO’s GREP has achieved significant results for cascading into provincial policies and education sector plans. The programme has a significant contribution towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG-4) and national and provincial education priorities for inclusive and quality education, especially for girls. With UNESCO’s help, Mr. Chak’s has made a priceless contribution to protect and strengthen his community’s right to quality education.