Overseas and back
“Being in a small town, we had few opportunities, but we were free to dream of becoming pilots, engineers and doctors. So everyone was ready to go and save the world.”
After earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in country, Fozia undertook a DPhil in Engineering Science at the University of Oxford.
“I went to Oxford to study environmental science. Being in a place where all kinds of conversations, cultures and identities were allowed was very enlightening.
“My teachers are very proud of me. For someone from that school to go to Oxford and come back is a huge thing. Whenever I'm back home, I take part in a lot of events and meet some of the people who have seen me grow.”
Putting research into practice
Back in Pakistan, Fozia is now establishing new research areas in citizen and policy science, such as the importance of green spaces in urban areas, monitoring water quality in Lahore and establishing setups for emergency situations.
She is also encouraging teachers to come forward and lead – on the climate front.
While 95 percent of teachers in a recent UNESCO survey said they want to teach about climate change, only a third of them reported having the confidence to do so. As an environmental scientist, one way Fozia applies her research – on plastic pollution, food security and climate-smart agriculture amongst other things – is by preparing teachers to support the next generation to care for the planet.
“I've gotten a US Embassy grant to train 50 teachers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, with research and content specific to the area. And I am supervising a thesis on establishing the importance of the natural environment in early childhood.”
When one of her students developed indoor and outdoor lesson plans to see what the outcomes were for her pupils, she saw the quiet ones join in, and the group showing empathy for the environment. The results echoed Fozia’s schoolday memories: “Outside, children’s horizons shift and the conversation expands.”