Teachers and administrators of the PakTurk Schools in Pakistan, which were usurped in 2018 through the pressure from the Turkish government, give a struggle for rights and justice under the guidance of the London Advocacy Group. The PakTurkFile team, forming the media and promotional component of this struggle, organized a donation campaign in November 2021 to support the struggle underway. Former teachers and administrators also participated as speakers in the program broadcast simultaneously on MC TV and Hizmetten YouTube channels.
One of the program participants was Züleyha Özşahin, a Biology teacher who worked at the PakTurk Schools for 4.5 years. Stating her intense wish to work abroad while she was still in Turkey, Özşahin said she went to Pakistan after working at a private tutoring and exam prep centre for many years. She explained how she studied for many nights, undertaking a tough but rewarding process to teach her Biology course in English at the PakTurk Schools. Highlighting the way she recapped the contents of the textbooks for hours and taught empty classrooms, Özşahin said she could eventually take her classes and meet her students at the end of an academic year.
Züleyha Özşahin briefly explained during the program: “I had a dream of teaching abroad since my high school years. After I started teaching in some private tutoring and exam prep centres in Turkey, I tried my best to make this dream a reality but it was not possible back then. I was fortunate enough to go to Pakistan in 2013. It was a place where I felt the happiest. I admired Pakistan’s national poet Dr. Muhammad Iqbal. When I arrived in the country, I witnessed how exquisite a nation Pakistanis were. They are generous, kind, respectful and helpful people. I spent 4.5 years in Pakistan. That period was so precious and unique for me.
I was not proficient in English before going to Pakistan. Indeed, my colleagues in Turkey used to say things like “How will you survive there without English? You will not last more than a year”. Since I wished to go there so much, I kept on motivating myself, “I have to do this, and I will!” Once I arrived in Pakistan, I attended a 7-month English language course. For sure, it was a challenge because my children had to learn English too. My language studies often lasted until the morning prayer.
At the end of those 7 months, I had to learn and adapt to the schooling system and teach soon. With the permission of the school administration, I attended the classes and listened to the lectures like a student. Sometimes I would attend lectures 25 hours a week. Later, I realized that was not enough and that I should teach by myself. For hours, I recapped the contents of the textbooks, transcribed the topics, and lectured to empty classrooms. Finally, after a year, I started teaching, that is, I could actually meet my students.
Pakistan is a very special, unique and beautiful place. Since the country has very nice people, they should be facilitated by all possible means for growth. The people of Pakistan have an exquisite nature. They listen to you attentively and support you. I felt that sincere support especially during my last year in Pakistan. I and my students were bonded by a strong relationship. Such connections should be sustained.
I cannot forget the atmosphere at the school the day we learned we had to leave Pakistan. I remember how students wept and said, “Don’t go, teacher!” and parents protested, “We will not let them send you! We will hide you if necessary, but do not go!” Some parents even offered to host us in their villages. They were truly hospitable and they would do all things necessary. A parent wished to take Turkish tuitions from me just to give me some financial support. Even when we left the school for good, my students would come to my house every day in groups to give me emotional support. At times I met and saw my students in public parks. It went on this way until we parted.
I was very sad when I left Pakistan. I didn’t wish to leave but I had to. I love and miss there much. I keep in touch with my students, we have long chats. I would love to see them graduate and supervise their enrolment to universities, but it was not meant to happen…”