The torchbearers

By Sara Danial
Tue, 09, 23

Teachers are regarded as life coaches. They play a profound role in fostering education. However, in Pakistan, teachers face a number of issues while teaching. This week You! talks to a few teachers, based in Karachi, in order to find out the ground realities. Read on…

The torchbearers

Teachers are fondly known as the architects of society who play an integral role in shaping young minds. It goes without saying that teachers are an essential component of any education system. Teachers are more than just a hub of knowledge; they are mentors, they are role models, they are life coaches. Their impact reaches far beyond textbooks and classrooms. Teachers inculcate values, encourage critical thinking, and cultivate a love for learning that outspreads throughout a person’s life.

However, in Pakistan, teachers face a number of challenges. Teachers are overburdened with more classes due to lack of staff in schools, they face shortage of teaching and learning resources in schools, there are fewer professional development opportunities for teachers, says a report.

“Inadequate opportunities and incentives for professional development and career progression have rendered teaching an unappealing career choice in Pakistan. High teacher turnover and a slow replacement process exacerbate teacher deployment challenges across schools characterised by poor status, low salaries and inadequate working conditions,” observes Maleeha Rizwan, Associate Operations Analyst, ADB Pakistan Resident Mission, Central and West Asia Department. “Pakistan can improve its education system by taking concrete steps to ensure the availability of qualified teachers and to enhance the quality of teaching. Along with improvements in teacher recruitment and deployment, there is a need to strengthen the capacity of existing teachers and new teachers entering the system. Teaching quality can be enhanced through improvements in teacher preparation programmes, investments in institutions that provide pre-service and in-service teacher education and training, the introduction of a continuous professional development model, and regulations and standards for in-service and pre-service training,” recommends Maleeha.

So, what are the ground realities and what kind of issues teachers face while teaching? In this regard You! talks to three veteran teachers, who have been teaching with dedication and patience over the years. Read on…

“Disciplinary issues among children in schools have been a longstanding concern” - Durre Shehwar

Durre Shehwar is a veteran teacher in the academic sector, and has worked in the Foreign Diplomatic Mission. Her domain of teaching lies in History, Political Science and English Literature. While discussing problems she encounters while teaching Durre Shehwar shares, “Disciplinary issues among children in schools have been a longstanding concern. Over the years, the nature of these issues has evolved due to changes in society, technology, and education itself. Addressing these issues requires a comprehensive understanding of their causes and a proactive approach to foster a positive school environment,” says Durre, who has more than 24 years of teaching experience in a prestigious private school.

Durre Shehwar
Durre Shehwar

“Children act and behave in many different ways. Usually, their behaviour impacts all those around them. In case of a negative behaviour, a factor that is most affected is discipline. Lack of discipline can cause a dysfunctional life both at home and school. These disciplinary issues are caused by defiance, aggression, lack of focus and technology addiction. Due to this, children struggle in personal interaction that affects their social development and emotional well-being,” explains Durre

After Covid-19, teachers struggled with children as they were deprived of a physical school which affected their social skills as students had to switch to online learning. While those occurrences were experienced in Covid-19, the impact can now be seen accordingly. “In today’s world of technology, children are far more advanced and adept. Teachers would assume they would be online in a class, when in reality, they have the leverage to go about their day doing something else, without the adults knowing. This is where parents took their schooling lightly and what followed next was an academic disaster,” describes Durre.

Increased screen time among children has been associated with many behavioural impacts in the classroom. It leads to decreased attention span, lack of focus and low engagement as compared to traditional classroom. “Teachers are facing a variety of challenges when trying to address the issues pertaining to increased screen time and online learning. Some of these difficulties include limited time to engage with students. Teachers cannot observe individuals in-person which is affecting the classroom management. Maintaining a conducive learning environment is a daily struggle,” elucidates Durre.

Some students may exhibit disrespectful behaviour towards teachers and peers, leading to disruptions in the classroom. This can include talking back, refusing to follow instructions, or engaging in riotous activities. “Young parents must realise the significance of discipline and how it will help their child in achieving success in personal and professional life. Fostering a culture of respect and positive communication is imperative. They must implement clear and consistent behaviour expectations, and provide children with opportunities to discuss their feelings and concerns in a structured, constructive manner. Encouraging conflict resolution skills and modelling respectful behaviour through close interactions is the way to be for teachers and parents alike,” suggests Durre.

“It’s a constant struggle for us to remain calm and composed while teaching preschool children” - Maniz Qayoom

Maniz Qayoom has been a veteran preschool teacher of a reputable school. Her training and experience with preschool children hailing from London before coming to Karachi.

Discussing about positive development of children while inculcating strictness, concept of boundaries, and discipline, she explains, “These are crucial, foundation years which develop the love for learning positively. It is important to develop their emotional, social, gross and fine motor skills as they learn through practical experiences in their school environment. With pre-school children, it is important to recognise that we cannot force or instruct them in an orthodox manner, like older children. They learn their limits by following instructions in a child-friendly manner, so there is no disciplinary procedure that we follow. We do talk to them by giving them an example of a child who is following the teacher’s instructions as a role model for them to follow. In extreme cases, we talk to the child one-on-one with a positive approach. We try not to involve the parents as the teacher deals with the situation in the classroom, at best.”

Maniz Qayoom
Maniz Qayoom

Online schooling only made things worse for preschool children. While the Pandemic was an unprecedented time and Pakistani academics were struggling with keeping schools as non-disruptive as possible, as most people did, the children felt a huge impact mentally and emotionally, whether it was toddlers or teenagers. “During Covid-19, teaching nursery children was a challenge for teachers as well as parents. Preschool children have a short concentration span and learn through practical activities therefore, we had to inform the parents beforehand to prepare the activity for their child,” expresses Maniz.

“Teachers at preschool level are expected to remain happy, calm, kind and soft spoken at all times because this reflects on their students. So, when children at this age throw tantrums, or do not feel like coming to school, or are moody and aren’t willing to engage in class group activities, teachers have to accommodate while dealing with the child and the parents. It’s a constant struggle for us to remain calm and composed,” shares Maniz.

Maniz emphasises that for a preschool child, screen time should be limited and carefully supervised. “Since they tend to live in a world of fantasy and detach from the real world, it causes problems in their real, everyday life,” she adds.

“Teachers were respected in the past, not any longer” - Afshan Kafeel

Before entering the educational system, Afshan Kafeel was a typical banker. After few years she switched to the educational sector, a journey she calls, ‘progressive and challenging’. During her tenure in the administration, admissions and human resources functions, she conducted training sessions for teachers, orientation for parents, and guided students for participation in international contests.

Talking about the issues teachers face today, Afshan says, “It has always been important for me to work collaboratively with teachers and work on a solution for challenges faced by them in academics. The most prominent disciplinary issues revolve around children being inattentive; over assertive with friends and siblings; being stubborn and aggressive, displaying negative attitude; unacceptability of instructions from teachers and parents; excessive use of technologies: increased screen time and cell phone access, being physically or verbally violent and using derogatory language.”

Afshan Kafeel
Afshan Kafeel

While distance learning is not unusual in developed countries, however, Pakistan certainly has had a fair share of struggle with it during the pandemic. “The teachers saw that the students did not attend classes, grasping the concepts was an endless struggle for some subjects. Online learning was entirely sedentary that hurt the posture and physical well-being. Children who were disinterested would leave the classroom, or switch off their cameras to avoid participating in classes,” elucidates Afshan.

The impact of increased screen time on children’s behaviour and discipline in the classroom has generally been adverse. Nowadays, children remain lethargic in classrooms due to cell phone usage which causes them to have a decreased attention span. It is important to note that parents play an equally important part here as lack of sleep makes them slow in grasping concepts and many are behind in completing assignments. “An empathic attitude, a friendly interaction and a compassionate conversation are the ways to go. Not only does it boost confidence of the child but it also helps them emotionally and academically,” comments Afshan.

When asked, why is it that parents in this day and age have become irresponsible in setting fixed times for studying, playing, screen time and dinners? Afshan replies, “Because today’s parents are not taking their job seriously. They give lame excuses for non-submission of work by their kids. Parents also need to play their part efficiently. Merely putting their children in a school is not sufficient,” she points out.

It has been noticed that these days children are least bothered about completing their assignments on time as opposed to days gone by when children were genuinely concerned about completion and submission of work assigned. “Student’s behaviour and mood swings are aggressive at times which teachers have to put up with. If an action is taken regarding the child’s behaviour, parents show up at the school with complaints instead of correcting their own kids,” laments Afshan.

According to Afshan, it is okay to be a bit strict in order to maintain discipline and instil good values among children. “In the past teachers were mostly strict, but in those days, teachers were widely respected and children were well behaved. Now, you cannot reprimand a child,” notices Afshan. “Notwithstanding with all the issues, teachers bear the responsibility of grooming, shaping, and bringing positive qualities in every student according to their individual psychology. No child is the same. Individual qualities must be evaluated and dealt with accordingly. Because, after all, the future of learning is dependent on the teachers,” states Afshan.

Let’s honour our teachers

So, while our relentless teachers strive to undo the damage and teach to relearn an alternative way, to better shape the children of tomorrow, let’s take a moment to celebrate the incredible influence they have on society and individuals. Let’s recognise their untiring efforts as they dedicate themselves to shaping minds and building futures. This profession goes beyond academics; it extends to character, values, and the very fabric of our communities. By honouring teachers and their contributions, we acknowledge their role in carving a brighter, more informed, and more compassionate world.

The writer is a communication specialist and a freelance journalist based in Karachi. She can be reached at