Day in the life of a Teacher at FATA | Act Youth Force
Mahzala- cheeks flushed and heart throbbing almost as if threatening to explode out of her chest- sprinted through the dusty-cramped pavements of the main bazaar in Wana, presently vacant of the bellowing shopkeepers and eager customers expected as soon as the sun illuminated the day. The morning breeze soothed Mahzala’s nerves with its slight chill. The ambiance of the bazaar was notably distinctive this early in the morning as compared to when the shoppers rush it during the busy hours of the day.
Mahzala slowed her pace as soon as she caught sight of Lala Rahim, who stood fidgeting outside his closed shop, suddenly relieved when he caught Mahzala’s glimpse. Before Mahzala even reached him, he cautiously lifted the shutter of his tea shop. Without exchanging any words, Mahzala staggered towards the basement door in Lala Rahim’s shop and unlocked the door. The usual stench of stagnant water filled her nostrils the moment she swung the door open, and with God’s name on her lips, she nodded at Lala Rahim in the affirmative and climbed down the sketchy cemented staircase of the dingy basement.
The two fluorescent lights at the extreme ends of the basement flickered as Mahzala powered them. The dull walls with chipping paint and the decayed ceiling weakened the light’s job of brightening the eerily murky basement. She laid several small rugs on the floor with some distance between each rug, and placed a bigger one at the start of the room where the staircase ended, just beside a small chalkboard supported against the wall. She swept the floor that was wet in one corner due to the rain that seeped through the shattered glass of the only window in the room. Mahzala then perched on the bigger rug and wrote all the things she was going to teach the students for the day on the chalkboard.
It was now time to wait for her students to arrive, who still had ten minutes. As Mahzala patiently peered around the room, she felt the relief seeping through every layer of her skin, which blossomed the most profound satisfaction in her. Her heart was steady, her soul was at peace. The complete opposite of what she felt a few years back; the only troubled child of her parents, living the lavish life in Peshawar, who took everything for granted, even her education. However, it didn’t matter anymore because those deluded days of mistakes led her wandering towards the path of light: her success. This was her success- this feeling- her soul put to peace simply by transferring her insight to the enthusiastic minds that were concealed under the horrors of Wana.
“Ma’am, may I come in?” Gulalai’s lively voice brought Mahzala back to the present.
Mahzala nodded, and ten girls, including Gulalai, entered the room with relieved smiles as they sat on their separate rugs. Mahzala lightened up to notice that two more girls managed to show up today as compared to the past three days. There was no certainty as to how many girls would show up every day. Only three girls were confirmed of attending the school every day, those being the ones whose parents were contented with the decision of educating their daughters. Others tricked their parents into thinking that they are running an errand or at their friend’s house as excuses to avail their only chance at education, that was Mahzala. So, some days they managed to show up, some days, or for many days, they didn’t.
Mahzala turned to the board to give the lecture to the keen students, staring intently at the board, pencils tightly gripped in their fingers ready to jot down everything Mahzala explained on half torn books with pages dulled along the edges. While Mahzala was in the midst of explaining the method of addition, she was distracted by the person coming down the stairs, who had diverted the whole class’s attention towards her. The face was familiar, but not regular. Khush Bakhta, a small-flimsy girl, clenching the strap of her bag hanging on her shoulder, frozen with terror. Mahzala noticed a faded bruise on her cheek bone and a swelled torn lip. It answered her ambiguity of why Khush Bakhta wasn’t coming to school for the past five days. Her father was an avid server of Mir Jaffar, the leader of the biggest tribe in Wana, and must’ve found out the truth behind why Khush Bakhta was visiting her neighbor every morning. Mahzala’s heart sank deep with grief for the poor soul, who was so keen on her education that she managed to come to school even after going through the dreadful circumstances. Her throat hardened, but she swallowed and beamed at Khush Bakhta, gesturing her to join Gulalai.
“Ma’am, if you won’t mind, would you please allow me to go home early today?”, Khush Bakhta uttered through her quivering lips.
“Of course, my dear!” Mahzala replied, forcing her jittery lips into a calming stretch.