in Pakistan Administered Kashmir is home to around 230,529 people, with their livelihood mostly dependant on the natural resources of the region. The unavailability of sufficient water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), coupled with a poor infrastructure, a rough topography and harsh weather has 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 of district Hattian Bala 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 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.
Being an enthusiastic local schoolteacher in 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 Mr. Chak how best to provide the students with continuing education.
Thus, with the help of UNESCO’s flagship programme, the “Girls’ Right to Education Programme” (GREP) in Pakistan, he proactively arranged meetings with local education partners, School Management Committees (SMCs), and parents to support them with tutoring for the students – which was most welcomed by the community at large, parents and students. For the promotion of girls’ education, UNESCO is implementing the GREP in the most isolated and marginalised districts of Pakistan under the Malala Funds-in-Trust which is established with support from the Government of Pakistan. The Programme focuses on developing and strengthening the local institutional and organizational capacities in designing, implementing, and monitoring interventions for the promotion of girls’ education in both formal and non-formal settings.
Two students expressed their gratitude to Mr Chak:
After the lockdown, we thought our doors to seek education might never open due to the pandemic. However, our teacher has given hope and joy by teaching us diligently to practice the protective measures of COVID-19.
Students, Asma Arif and Nosheen
Apart from teaching his students in morning and evening sessions, with the help of community members, Mr.Chak provided books for the needy children. Moreover, he was involved in school repairs, believing that students deserve a better environment on their return to schools. With his enthusiasm and progressive approach, he has been in contact with local NGOs to improve the socio-economic conditions of the affected families by COVID-19.
A father of a student, opined:
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 organisations for “Building Back Better” in education and encourage selfless souls like Mr. Chak for his services.
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 the future for all.
Although Mr. Chak has been taking 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