|27 Sep 2023|
|2023 Finalists Global Teacher Prize|
After being beaten and humiliated by her teacher in front of her classmates at school when she was little, Sister Zeph opened her own school in the courtyard of her home when she was just 13 years old, teaching herself at home and offering tuition to local children. She started working as a child to fund her free school and went door-to-door to recruit students. While her school lacked basic facilities, she says “it had respect, equality, love, and passion for all the students, the passion that was going to make history in the future.” She kept teaching herself as a private student, would work 8 hours a day, teach 4 hours at her school, and would teach herself 4 hours at night, reading newspapers and listening to English news to improve her knowledge and speaking skills because there was no one educated in her family or in the neighbourhood at the time. She has now been teaching for 26 years and become a hugely influential figure.
In 2006 gunmen attacked Sister Zeph’s home for teaching the girls, so she had to leave the village with her family, returning after six months and this time decided to never leave her students alone. In 2010 she gained her first Master’s degree from the University of Punjab in political science, by then with over 100 students in her courtyard. She used technology a lot, learning from the Internet, and sharing the knowledge with her students. Without any formal IT training she made Google her teacher. She won the Lynn Syms Global Prize 2014 and bought a small piece of land, where she started teaching skills to women free of charge in the mornings and in the evenings would teach her students, many of whom were now volunteer teachers with her. These students are living successful lives, many are doing masters in criminology, BBA, HR, Marketing, Finance and Mass Communication. Over these 26 years Sister Zeph has taught hundreds of children and now a proper school where currently 215 underprivileged children are getting free education and although the school building is rented it is a proper school. Currently she has 26 employees in her organization the ZWEE Foundation, (the Zephaniah Free Education & Women's Empowerment Foundation whose mission is to raise the status of women through education and empowerment) all of them her former students who are now highly educated. Sister Zeph has devoted her life to the cause and says she “will keep working to educate the children of the world as long as I am alive.”
Today she is hailed as a women’s education expert, empowerment and environmental leader, children’s rights activist, published writer, international speaker, and community leader committed to fostering interfaith harmony. She is also the Founder and Chairperson of ZWEE and Zeph Sunday Schools Ministry. For her work and dedication to uplifting the most disadvantaged communities, she has been awarded the Outstanding Performance award by Eternal Life Ministry of Pakistan International, and Bioneers Change Makers Award. The film Flight of the Falcons was produced to emphasize her life and work by Channel News Asia Singapore. The film won a gold medal from the New York Film Festival in 2016, She was awarded a Gold medal as a Book of Humanity from kar-E-Khair Pakistan in 2021 and an Excellent performance award from Victory Church of Pakistan in 2021, plus a host of other global awards.