Rubina Zaidi – A Voice Of My Own
Coming from a humble background, Rubina Zaidi has fought many stereotypes to make her mark as a determined and creative numeracy teacher. Being one of three daughters, she was brought up as a son and was strongly supported by her father in her desire to pursue her higher studies.
“I always had this fiery passion to educate my soul and to encompass as much knowledge as I could, because I didn’t want any limitations in my life regarding opportunities and growth. My whole life has been about education and making a mark for myself.”
She completed her Masters in Economics in 1992 and later in Education from Aga Khan University in 2005. Her first Masters was self-funded as she was teaching at that time and was always very strong headed about managing her life and dreams. And after she got married, she was a mother of two boys and an eight month old daughter by the time she dared to venture into her second Masters. This was a strong push by the school that she was teaching at for 10 years, the administrators and faculty of which had blind faith in her abilities and to this day, she feels indebted to their powerful persuasion. Rubina believes that whatever she has managed to achieve in life, would never have been possible without the persistent help and support of her husband. He not only understood and considered her dreams as his own, but also shared the household responsibilities to make ends meet, a stereotype that both husband and wife battled with, and eventually conquered.
“To this day, my husband and I enjoy a superb understanding on our role as parents to our three kids. While I manage their academic goals, he is more of a social and emotional mentor to them. My family can rightly be called a religious family and we are particular about following rituals and teaching our children about the relevance of being practicing Muslims.”
Professionally, after serving seven years in a Pakistani School, Rubina was promoted as a PDT or Professional Development Teacher. She believes that her greatest achievement as a PDT was that she planned and implemented a six month course for teachers to strengthen teaching methodologies and to bridge learning gaps. In her Masters thesis, she created and designed a math activity book for the higher grades that won her a distinction. It was published by the university, was a proud part of the campus library and was used by teachers as a resource or point of reference.
Presently, Rubina is living in Dubai and working as a Math Teacher for higher grades in an American curriculum school. When she started teaching in Dubai, it was a whole new experience since the students came from different cultural, social and religious backgrounds. Rubina finds it interesting to compare and contrast the teaching methodologies and systems experienced in both Pakistan and the UAE.
“I enjoy the diversity of ideas and I’ve realized that it is precisely this medley that adds to the added exposure and learning enrichment that the students enjoy here in Dubai. When I compare the classroom set up, use of technology and cooperative learning techniques, I feel many Pakistani schools and universities compete well and there are similarities to find, but the inclusion of different ethnicities and voices makes the learning experience more enjoyable for the students out here.”
When questioned about the challenges of maintaining a strong Pakistani identity and being accepted in a multicultural society, she reflected and shared that to merge in a multicultural community a person needs to be accepting of others first, and therefore she feels that it is a two-way stream. Initially, as is the case for any new experience, things are challenging and difficult but in time, a person’s work and character should be able to convince others. From her side, Rubina is open to change and tries to keep a flexible attitude to new ideas and perspectives.
As all thinking individuals, Rubina too holds some strong opinions when it comes to stereotypes in Pakistan. She has always felt that our society sets limits and defines roles too harshly for both men and women, but specifically for women. Despite the strong stances that she has taken in life regarding work and education, irrespective of the fact that she had the support of the two most important men in her life, she felt pressured and socially struggled a lot to justify her decisions in front of random people. Having no brothers majorly contributed to this attitude of hers, which states that being resourceful is most important.
“I am of the opinion that women need to shirk off their fears of taking on responsibility. For myself I can say that I live in the UAE and I sponsor my family which is typically considered to be a male domain or job. I do think it’s important to engage your abilities without any shame or fear of failure.”
Rubina confessed that though the most difficult time in her life was when she decided to pursue her Masters in Education, it was undoubtedly the happiest period of her life. She was then a daughter, wife, mother and sister, but most importantly, she was ‘herself’ doing something that truly mattered to her and brought her joy.
“In the end, it is about what you want from life and how you want people to remember you.”
Rubina’s Pakistani identity is something that is extremely close to her heart. She believes that Pakistanis are very emotional people. They are brave, caring and no matter where they reside, their warmth is quite magnetic and their presence is almost immediately felt.
“I don’t see the UAE as my permanent home. I do dream about having my own school one day in Pakistan and hope to go back and give back the incredible gift of knowledge that it instilled in me, that helped me create a life for myself, a life with so many possibilities.”