BY AFSHAN KABA
University of Calgary
I usually write about the local events happening around the
U of C campus for geology and geophysics students, but
because our activities are just getting underway, I thought
I would also share with you my experience with the Foundational
Learning for the Economic Empowerment of Women Program.
My involvement began with a summer job at Spectrum Seismic,
and my bosses were nice enough to let me take advantage of
a volunteer teaching opportunity in Pakistan. I was based
in the city of Lahore, where I taught math and physics to
35 students – who did not have even a basic understanding
|Top, Pakistani girls, generally in
their mid-teens, came from the city and the countryside
for classes; bottom,
members of the mathematics and physics curriculum development
When I arrived in Lahore, I learned that half my students
were locals from the city, and half were brought by bus from
little villages in interior Punjab. After the first day of
classes, I knew I had to split my class into two groups:
one English-speaking, and one that needed Urdu translation.
After myriad preliminary problems were addressed, I found
it enjoyable to teach these students. I especially had fun
with the physics labs, among them the running races lab,
which demonstrated the concept of velocity.
It was interesting to experience the different challenges
in learning that rarely exist in Canada. For example, in
Pakistan there is a big emphasis placed on memorization,
so I had to spend a lot of time teaching students how to
apply their knowledge to other problems.
Results Prove Program’s Worth
I covered as much of the curriculum that I could, but I put
an emphasis on teaching the basics of each module to ensure
that students had a firm grasp of these concepts.
I saw positive results for most of the students. We gave
the same assessment exam before and after the program; for
One student went from a score of 8/45 to 33/45! Seeing this
kind of improvement was rewarding.
Some of the challenges went beyond the classroom. I was sick
off and on, for example, but nothing too serious – only
the usual problems that you have to expect when staying in
a developing country for a period of time.
The people were wonderful, and the students showed us a lot
of respect. I felt that by helping out what little I could,
I gave back to the world a bit of what I have taken from
it. We are so fortunate here in Canada to have a good education
system, and so many opportunities.
You cannot save the world – this was not my intention – but
you can make a small difference if you try. This is what
the whole group did, not only the instructional team, but
also all the people on the curriculum development team and
all our sponsors. As partners in world development, we helped
make a difference in 150 individual lives.
We all hope these young women will take this as a first step,
and pursue their education ambitiously. But even if they
do not, I am certain that they will send their own children
to the best schools possible, and encourage their children
to pursue a good education.
Afshan Kaba is a geophysics student at the University of
Calgary. For more information or to get involved, contact
her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Women’s Mathematics
Enhancement website at www.spectare.net/wme.