A female Afghan teacher who was nominated for the Global Teacher Prize by Varkey Foundation is now among the top 10 finalists. The winner will walk away $1 million USD in prize money.
The organization said in a statement that the top 10 finalists announced on Wednesday, represent five continents and nine countries.
The winner is expected to be announced on March 13 in Dubai and each of the top 10 finalists will be featured by the organization.
There were over 5,000 nominations and applications from 127 countries for the inaugural Global Teacher Prize which generated a huge amount of media interest around the world.
Aqeela, the Afghan teacher, was forced to leave Afghanistan in 1992 due to the civil war and lived in a refugee camp in Pakistan along with millions of other Afghans.
her time at the camp, Aqeela completely changed the face of education for young girls.
When she arrived, she was shocked to find that there were no operational schools in this very conservative area.
Educating girls was even considered wrong and female teachers were unheard of. Aqeela set up a school for girls in a borrowed tent and worked hard to overcome parents' reluctance towards education.
Initially twenty families agreed, once she had put the focus of her teaching on the non-controversial subjects of personal hygiene, home management skills and religious education for girls. Having gained the trust of the community, she then introduced subjects like literacy, Dari language, mathematics, geography and history.
Over time she turned her school into a formal secondary school for girls which produced 1,000 graduates. They were mainly Afghan refugee girls, but Aqeela made sure that local Pakistani children were included as well.
Several of her students have gone on to become doctors, engineers, government officials and even teachers in Afghanistan.
Today there are nine schools in the camp with many female teachers and over 1,500 students, 900 of which are girls. Due to the higher level of education, the occurrence of early and forced marriages has declined in the community.
For her efforts to give girl refugees access to education, Aqeela was recently honoured by the UNHCR with the Nansen Refugee Award.