Zephaniah Free Education: An Interview
Zephaniah is an educator and women's advocate from Gujranwala, Pakistan, and operates a free school for women, girls and children who cannot afford education. Zephaniah offers adult basic education and skills courses for women, environment education, English language courses and career counseling. Additionally, Zephaniah volunteers her time as co-administrator for World Wide Women, an organization working towards the global empowerment of women and is now a writer/contributor to World Pulse.
What was the inspiration for your school?
It is very common in our schools to beat children and to impose teacher‘s own will and ideas, although now GOVT is taking initiatives to stop such acts by the teachers. But in my time it was not like this. I also faced the same humiliation from by my teacher just because I was a naughty girl. I did not harm anyone I was just acting like a teacher in front of my class when my teacher was not in the class. So when she came she beat me, shouted at me and abused me. It was not the first time but this time I decided to not let it happen again and made an extreme decision. I left my school forever and decided to teach girls voluntarily at my home in the open air. So at the age of 13, I went door to door to recruit the students and started my school with one student because I wanted to change our education system to one that would respect love and freedom of speech and the expression of the student’s own ideas. I wanted to make the students thinkers not followers. Along with this I kept studying and completed my Masters in Political science. I did not go to any institution or teacher for this. I got this education through self-studies.
What is the greatest danger to you and your students?
Not only to me and to my students but to the whole world, there is a danger and that is called illiteracy. There is only one thing that can ruin our world one day and that is illiteracy. Only education teaches us to respect each other, to accept others as human beings, and gives us courage to encourage others around us. It tells us that we should accept each other on the basis of humanity not due to religion, cast, groups or nationality. So my fight is against illiteracy and I think everyone in the world should stand with me so that we can defeat this enemy to make our world a peaceful land to live in and a heaven on the earth. I believe a perfect way to get peace and prosperity on the earth is to educate girls because today’s girls are tomorrow’s mothers.
What/who are you most proud of?
I am proud of my parents who supported me always, who kept standing with me in all kinds of circumstances. I am proud of all those angels who have been with me in all my efforts. I am proud of all those families who had trust in me and sent their girls to my school so I could change more them five hundred girls’ lives with education.
What does your school need the most?
Over fifteen years in my school, there is only a will to get and to spread education with just a few books and nothing else. We do not have a school building as it is in the open air. We do not have drinking water or electricity. We have no fans in the summer. We do not have heaters in the winter. We do not have shelter in rain. So we need everything but most important is shelter.
Do you work at a job in addition to your school?
Yes, I do work full-time from 9 p.m. to 4 p.m. I work in a telecom company as an assistant manager. From 4:20 to 7 p.m. I am in school, Sunday for the whole day. I teach English to the girls and I have a teacher for the women's learning center. I am getting a good salary so I use that money for my school and for myself.
If you wish like to donate money or supplies to Zephaniah Free Education please e-mail me at admin@WomenOnTheEdge.org
If you wish to follow the school’s page on Facebook, the page is Zephaniah Free Education at https://www.facebook.com/zephaniahfreeacademy/