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Pakistani teacher wins $1 million Global Teacher Prize

Sister Zeph has been named the winner of the 2023 Varkey Foundation Prize  

Dubai, Nov 10, 2023:  Pakistani teacher Sister Zeph, who founded her own school for underprivileged children in the courtyard of her home at just 13, has won the $1 million Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize for 2023. The $1 million award is one of the largest prizes of its kind globally. 

Sister Zeph, an English, Urdu, culture, inter-faith harmony, climate change teacher at Gujranwala, Punjab in Pakistan, was selected from more than 7,000 nominations and applications for the Global Teacher Prize from 130 countries around the world.  

Sister Zeph founded her own school in the courtyard of her home at just 13 for children whose parents cannot pay fees. She worked eight-hour days to fund the school, then taught students for another four hours, and then stayed up at night teaching herself. Twenty-six years later, the school, now housed in a brand-new building, provides free education for more than 200 underprivileged children. From a young age she faced adversity, and emerged as a beacon of hope for underprivileged children in her wider community. Many of her students from humble backgrounds have gone to work for her education and empowerment foundation while others have gone on to very successful professional careers. 

As well as running the school, she runs self-defence classes for girls, having herself been attacked and threatened. She also provides financial assistance to families choosing between educating their children and paying their bills, and runs a vocational centre that has helped more than 6,000 women gain skills in ICT, textiles, and the English language. 

With the Global Teacher Prize funds, Sister Zeph plans to build a school on 10 acres where children from the poorest families in the country can be educated without discrimination. She would also like to create a shelter for orphans, where food would be grown on the property and teachers from all parts of the world would be invited to instruct them in a range of subjects.  

The other top 10 finalists for the Global Student Prize 2023 are Annie Ohana from Canada, Deep Narayan Nayak from India, Nicolas Gaube from France, Shafina Vohra from the United Kingdom, Eric Asomani Asante from Ghana, Mariette Wheeler from South Africa, Melissa Tracy from the United States, Geisha Bonilla from Chile and Artur Proidakov from Ukraine.   

Now in its eighth year, the event is organised in collaboration with UNESCO and in strategic partnership with Dubai Cares, a UAE-based global philanthropic organisation.  

The Global Teacher Prize was set up to recognise one exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession.The event also saw the launch of the highlights of the UNESCO and Teacher Taskforce Global Report on Teachers, presenting comprehensive data and perspectives on global teacher challenges and providing actionable recommendations for teacher recruitment and retention. The report spotlights that a staggering 44 million additional teachers need to be recruited globally to meet universal primary and secondary education in 2030.

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