Life Altering Moments (My Encounter with Beena Raza)

Have you ever had an encounter where you knew instinctively that you life was about to change in a very exciting way although you couldn’t exactly say why or how? I had one of those moments yesterday when I had the distinct pleasure of meeting one of the most dynamic and passionate individuals I have perhaps ever met, Beena Raza.

Beena, and her sister Dr. Baela Raza Jamil, are the driving force behind Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA), the “Centre for Education and Consciousness” public trust in Pakistan and are heavily involved in the South Asian Forum for Education Development (SAFED). ITA has been our partner group in organizing and facilitating our grant-based program, the Pakistani Teachers Training Summer Institute. This grant funded program began in 2004 and has run every summer since with approximately 20-25 participants each year.

My meeting with Beena was facilitated by our new Pakistani Institute coordinator, Blake Allen. It was originally intended to be a simple one hour meeting to discuss technology and online learning opportunities. It evolved into a three hour brainstorming and incubation session in which the three of us spoke of everything from the nature of work within ITA’s adopted schools to Beena’s outreach efforts with the Rag Picker culture. I am amazed by her passion and commitment to her work, to her fellow Pakistanis, particularly when she mentioned so casually that some of her work had led to death threats if she returned, and yet return she did. Her persistence and commitment are inspiring!

Eventually our conversation began to center on collaborative and communicative technologies for Pakistani educators and we spoke of the informal “Google Office,” blogs, Skype, portals, connectivity issues and the $100 laptop initiative out of MIT. We spoke of the importance of follow-up contact with Institute participants and how we might develop a mechanism to enable post-institute connections and continued sharing and development of ideas which support the educational system. We began to envision a distance learning initiative which would provide ongoing support and training for our institute alums. It was incredible, the amount of energy in the room.

Our discussion culminated in an informal invitation for me to travel to Pakistan to work with and share collaborative technology ideas with educators there. I was, and still am, humbled by the thought but I believe that the opportunity to share my thoughts and expertise with Pakistani educators would pale in comparison to what I would learn from the experience.

Thank you Beena.

To be continued…

[tags]pakistan, pakistani, institute, ITA, SAFED, PSU, plymouth, state, university, beena, raza[/tags]

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