WORLD LESSONS

Students learn world lessons from Pakistani teacher

2011-04-09T00:00:00Z 2011-04-09T16:55:11Z Students learn world lessons from Pakistani teacherBy ROB ROGERS Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette
April 09, 2011 12:00 am  • 

The last thing kids want to be told is that going to school is a privilege.

But when Fozia Naseer stood to speak to students at Elysian School on Friday, that was just the message they got. And it enthralled them.

"We have something very special in the United States," Superintendent Brenda Koch said as she introduced Naseer to the school's younger grades -- "public education."

Naseer, a teacher from the Kashmir region of Pakistan visiting Elysian with the Central Asia Institute, stood and through a series of questions and activities, explained to students that not everyone gets to go to school in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan.

As she spoke, photos of the villages and students helped by the Central Asia Institute appeared behind her. In some of the photos, Naseer stood with her students.

Speaking of the educated class in her country, Naseer told the students, "These people have power over you."

To illustrate the point, she asked a student how he would respond if someone told him the sky was yellow.

"It's blue," he said.

"But if you never learned of colors," she responded, making the point that almost all the things the students know they learned in school.

Students at the school this year read the book "Three Cups of Tea" about mountaineer and philanthropist Greg Mortenson's efforts to spread peace by building schools in central Asia.

The Central Asia Institute rose out of that effort and to help the students held a penny drive for the institute's Pennies for Peace program and raised $446.53.

They gave the check to Naseer and the Central Asia Institute's Laura Anderson Friday morning.

Naseer, who earned a law degree in Pakistan and just finished two years of study at Montana State University in Bozeman, said she's been impressed by the young students' ability to grasp some pretty challenging concepts like extreme poverty and empowerment through education.

While she presents these concepts in broad strokes, she said they're important ideas for them to understand.

"They have a lot here, so they don't have that kind of experience" that kids in Pakistan might have, Naseer said.

Following the presentation, Naseer took questions from the students.

"Why do girls wear scarves over their faces?" one girl asked.

Naseer explained it was a cultural and religious custom for some families there, but that not all girls cover their faces. Most girls wear head scarves.

"I'm covering my head when I'm going there," she said.

Other questions centered on the educational experiences of students in central Asia. Like the Elysian students, they go to school about six hours a day. Unlike the Elysian students, they attend six days a week.

Anderson praised the students' efforts for raising money. Even pennies help, she said.

"Everybody can make a change in the world," she said.

Contact Rob Rogers at rrogers@billingsgazette.com or 657-1231.

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