Education with a touch of empathy and compassion

Photo by Colin J McMechan

In Dar es Salaam, the largest city in Tanzania, Alim Fakirani met with a local teacher during his work at the Aga Khan University-Institute for Educational Development. Although from different cultural backgrounds, a sense of understanding gradually sparked between them.

Even though we came from different contexts, we were still able to relate to one another’s profession,” says Fakirani, an international education consultant.

After seven years teaching, researching and developing programs, Fakirani sees education as playing a fundamental role in bettering society.

“I believe education has a huge role in improving our society. Without a strong, robust system, teachers in a society don’t function as well,” he says.

Delivering Canadian values through education

Photo by Arzina Zaver | Alim Fakirani, education consultant.

Fakirani attaches a lot of value to expressing empathy, compassion and love, which he says are also core Canadian values. Teaching Canadian values, he says, shouldn’t be restricted to school projects. Empathy and compassion could be taught in a math class, a history class or a science class. Schools and educators have the chance to help students better understand the world around them.

“I think education has a very fundamental role in making us better aware of one another, who you are, what our needs are, what our interests are, what our values are,” Fakirani says, “I think education also has the potential to foster empathy, a sense of understanding and a sense of compassion with one another.”

While working in Tanzania, where the Aga Khan University offers a Master’s program in education, Fakirani witnessed local individuals not just become great teachers and excellent administrators, but also remarkable leaders.

“I have met so many wonderful people [there, that] speaking of their wonderful experience crossed my mind. It’s just a wonderful opportunity for teachers from Canada to understand education from a completely different perspective,” says Fakirani, who established himself in Vancouver in 2015.

An accidental career

Born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, Fakirani was doing his undergraduate Bachelor of Arts degree with a double-major in world religions and political science at McGill University. He never thought he would choose to become a teacher.

After completing three years of undergraduate study, Fakirani started a Secondary Teacher Education Program. One of the components of the program’s requirement was to teach in class, which became the turning point in Fakirani’s life.

“When I was teaching, I thought ‘this is for me,’ this is something I actually am very passionate about. I was teaching in Montreal, then I also taught in London. Those two combined experiences helped me get to know students better,” he says.

Fakirani has high expectations for students. From his perspective, the future of the planet lies in their hands.

“The reality is they are going to become the leaders of tomorrow, and for me, to become someone who could potentially have an influence on their life, was an opportunity I didn’t want to miss out on,” says Fakirani.