Rafia Khan, who has been in the business of education for the past 36 years, is driven, goal-oriented and has set high standards for herself. She is sometimes disappointed when things don’t pan out the way she had hoped but she marches on and continues to hope to make a difference. She started her career in teaching from Karachi and also had the opportunity to teach at elitist schools in USA and Dubai. On her return to Pakistan, however, she realized that it is volunteer work where her real passion lies and decided to join Shahzad Roy in his mission to adopt government schools and then transforming them. That was the beginning of something exciting for Rafia.
Rafia spent a few years trying to turn around government schools and is proud of her work in converting SMB Fatimah Jinnah School into a flagship institution. Earlier on, she believed that when the government will see the changes made there they will take upon themselves to change the fate of other public schools but she was left disappointed. “Things didn’t work out between the NGO and the government and the school was just used as a show piece to attract American and European aid, unfortunately.” Rafia continues to work with various other public sector schools and currently is also running her own business where she teaches phonics using an American program. “It is great to see the children enjoying reading with comprehension,” she says.
A little dissatisfied with the efforts of the government, Rafia feels it is their jobs to look after schools and provide quality education for the youth of Pakistan. “It is not the responsibility of the NGOs to get infrastructure ready and the curriculum prepared. I have tried my best to deliver but I feel I have failed. Government schools are in thousands and NGOs are a handful. I’ve spoken to ministers, I have spoken to the top officials but they have done nothing.” Putting in so much effort and still not making it is very disappointing, of course. Rafia does not like seeing things that are half done. ”When projects are half-baked, it’s actually worse than not doing anything at all.” She faced this situation once when she went to conduct a 6-day training session in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “Everything was supposed to be done in English, but how is that possible when most of the children do not know how to speak the language? The people were lovely, I enjoyed the sessions and I was paid well too but at the end of the day, nothing substantial happened. That bothers me. There’s no follow up in this country,” she explains.
She adds that “life is not easy but nothing that’s worthwhile ever is. Allah says work, Quaid-e-Azam says work, work and work. It’s something that human beings do if they want to see their dreams take shape so I guess that’s what I will continue doing.”
With 4 children of her own, it has been nothing short of difficult to manage a career and a home. “When my children were born, I used to take my two month daughter to school! They have seen my passion to work and have seen me grow. I wasn’t the type to take a 6-month maternity leave but I don’t think any of my kids today can say that I wasn’t there for their PTMs, to see what they were doing. It’s doable and all my kids are sturdy, emotionally and health wise,” Rafia proclaims. Family has always been very important for her but so has her financial independence, which she believes is becoming more and more crucial with time. However, one should be ready to make sacrifices for the family if need be. In fact, her decision to come back to Pakistan was because of her mother’s health, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s at that time.
When talking about her mother, Rafia says “whatever patience and patriotism I have is because of my mother. I learnt so much from her and I want to be that role model for my girls.” Rafia has lived her life on her terms and her only regret is taking her health for granted. “Right now, I’m not at the best of health. I could’ve stretched a few more years had I invested in myself when I was younger,” she exclaims.
Rafia still hasn’t had her Miracle Moment but she has a good idea of what it will be like. She would like to see every Pakistani child to be able to read and comprehend. “I want universal education in the country and when I’m able to do that, that’s when I want to get the Miracle Woman status.” Though Rafia Khan feels she still has a long way to go, she certainly deserves to be one of the 100 Pond’s Miracle Women 2016 for her immense contributions to the field of education.