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Sister Zeph, a Pakistani educator, secured the $1 million Global Teacher Prize for her extraordinary contribution to education. At the age of 13, she established a school in her home’s courtyard, dedicated to underprivileged children unable to afford education. Balancing eight-hour workdays to fund the school, teaching for four hours, and dedicating nights to self-learning, Sister Zeph’s commitment has transformed the school, now accommodating over 200 disadvantaged children in a new building.
After winning the prize, Sister Zeph plans to utilize the funds to construct a school on four hectares, offering discrimination-free education to the country’s poorest families. Additionally, she envisions a shelter for orphans, complete with in-house food cultivation, and invites teachers worldwide to contribute classes. Stefania Giannini of UNESCO applauded Sister Zeph’s achievement, emphasizing the crucial role of inspirational teachers amid global shortages and declining conditions.
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Hailing from Gujranwala, Punjab, Sister Zeph teaches English, Urdu, culture, inter-faith harmony, and climate change. Beyond academics, she conducts self-defense classes for girls, aids families torn between education and bills, and runs a vocational center benefiting over 6,000 women. The Global Teacher Prize, in its eighth year, recognizes educators who significantly impact the profession. Stephen Fry, at a ceremony in UNESCO’s Paris headquarters, announced Sister Zeph as the 2023 winner, celebrated for her pivotal role in shaping young minds for a rapidly changing world.