- Co-Founder and CEO, Beyond the Classroom
What are contexts and issues that you work on? How are you using peace education to address these issues? What keeps you going?
Pakistan presents an interesting case study. One of the younger nation-states in this club of 195 and pretty much hosts most types of conflicts that you can imagine, be it religious,conflicts with our neighbours, socio-economic, colour or gender-based conflicts ... you name it. Pakistan's creation story heavily depends on vilifying the British colonial carnage and the two-nation theory where the Muslim minority in India was destined to face if Pakistan hadn't separated into a separate nation-state. This foundational notion of intolerance without critical thought is systematically ingrained amongst the youth as they go through the schooling system and manifests in a variety of different forms as people clash across lines of religion, ethnicity, socio-economics et al. Beyond the Classroom (BTC) education focuses on empowering Pakistanis to solve Pakistani problems with particular focus on training students on understanding their identity, engaging in dialogue/facilitation and inspiring students to understanding / solving their local social problems.
What has been your most meaningful or noteworthy moment in your peace education career?
In a country where access to education and poverty stand as some of the biggest challenges, it was refreshing to see the community galvanize around the initiative of peace education. BTC's work has been community-led as its alumni continue to fiercely own the day to day as well as the macro strategic elements of the work. As a result, the evolution of its geographic reach as well as its shape and form has been organic and natural as it spanned to 4 cities across Pakistan and continues to grow. To me, the most noteworthy insight has been how the community took ownership of the work and how deeply the alumni of our programs care about how these programs are administered to future cohorts of students. And also, how the initiatives undertaken by some of the fellows of BTC programs are starting programs that are sometimes seemingly unrelated to peace education directly, however, the ecosystem / community is arguably the most powerful thing that BTC is developing…
How and why did you start working in peace education?
I've always enjoyed solving problems and building sustainable systems around the solutions. Working on alternative educational models was the 5th professional industry that I had ventured into. My penultimate line of work was in a tech sector and while we were creating jobs, I felt that the Pakistani community had a challenge along the lines of intolerance which needed a more direct intervention that was being largely un-addressed by the traditional schooling system. Ergo, in 2016, I finally left the tech company and started Beyond The Classroom Education to work with youth directly.