FAQ Page

When did it start? Why?

Zephaniah started in 1997, when Sister Zeph was just 13 years old, in the court yard of her home because she was sick of the rampant abuse by teachers in public and government run schools in Pakistan.

How did it get it’s name?

The foundation got the name Zephaniah because Sister Zeph prayed about it. She is a 1-2% minority in Pakistan (Christian) and she prayed about having the right name for the school and Zephaniah was the name that came up. *A side note: Pakistan is 95-98% Muslim but Sister Zeph’s school and skills center has both Muslims and Christian students and teachers.

How has it grown?

For the first 13 years of the organization’s life there was little no growth because Sister Zeph had no outside support. At that point she had not yet come to know about or have access to social media or anyone who may be able to help her. She started out holding classes in the courtyard of her home and eventually got a job making just $10 a month. Eventually her salary increased to $400 (after many years and receiving her own bachelors education and moving up in her jobs) per month for full time work at a call center and she would use that to help support her family and the ongoing needs of the school. In 2014 she joined social media and then in 2015 she won the Lynn Sims prize ($20,000) and that helped her buy land and build the skills center that she has now attached to her home. For about 3 years she had all of the primary, secondary and skills center all in one place until it could not hold any more. In 2015 she met Malee Kenworthy online and Malee has been helping her raise funds for the past almost 4 years in order to help her finish building a roof, second story of the building and proper bathroom in the skills center. Then through more and more connections, Theresa Gattung Trust from New Zealand, donated to help her buy a van/ transportation for the school (which has been imperative in helping transport students who are far away as well as helping burn victims get treatment). This past year Malee and Sister Zeph made a new contact in Pennsylvania, Inspired Women Paying it Forward Pittsburgh, who has helped them raise funds in order to expand their new primary and secondary building to a larger one that is more appropriate for the 200 students. There is still the original skills center that is attached to her home and that is still used for skills training.

How many students?

There are currently 200 students that are in the primary and secondary classes that are receiving 12 years of free education. One thing that needs to be added is that Sister Zeph keeps little boys in her school up to 5th standard (5th grade) because they need to have a good foundation (horrific abuse in public schools and government run schools is normal so that’s why she keeps the little boys- for their safety) but she has to let them go after 5th standard or else the community and her culture will create problems for her. In their culture they do not mix older boys with older girls. There is nothing that Sister Zeph can do about this unless she is willing to have even more problems from those in her surroundings. There are 85 women currently receiving skills training in the skills training center.

Have any students gone on to college?

Yes, every year about 5 to 10 young women go on to college. Some of these women cannot because their families will not allow them but currently we have students who are in college and also study in the school and at Sister Zeph’s home for their exams. Sister Zeph also helps some young women buy supplies for their college education when she can.

How often is school in session?

The school and the skills center is in session 6 days a week from 8am to 3pm. The students and those in the skills center come during the summer except when it is the hottest. There is no time off other than that except on certain holidays.

How many teachers and what is their background?

There are currently 13 teachers and most of them do not have a bachelor’s degree because if we are to hire teachers with a bachelor’s degree this will increase our monthly expenses by almost $200 per month. If you would like to help us hire more qualified teachers you can go to tab “school” and scroll down until you see “Help us hire more qualified teachers”. Currently we need to replace 4 of our teachers with teachers that have bachelor’s degrees but at the moment we don’t have the funds for that. The current teachers make $55 per month and we need to replace 4 of them with teachers that make $150 per month and have stronger educational backgrounds.  There are two skills training teachers in our skills center right now as well.

What subjects do they study?

In Pakistan there is a curriculum that is set by the government. Every school must teach Math, science, history and English. At Zephaniah we teach them more than that. Sometimes there are volunteers from overseas that teach them different subjects such as oceanography, physics, art and more. If you want to teach the students a subject then please feel free to reach out to us.

How are the funds distributed?

Currently we pay rent for our new building ($200), we pay 15 teachers salaries at $55 each per month ($825) , utilities for skills center and main school building ($200), school supplies every month for 200 students ($100), Books for students and replacing old ones every month (they get worn out) ($100), new uniforms and shoes for the most needy children (uniforms for all students and teachers + they need to be replaces or repaired sometimes) ($100/ month), Van transportation repairs, gas ($50/mth).

On top of our monthly expenses we have current urgent needs such as electricity back system (because Pakistan practices load shedding), a security guard, replacing 4 teachers with higher paid and more qualified teachers and more (please check pages: our school, donate, sponsor a child and support tool kit for more information about what our needs are and how to donate and if you would like to help but don’t have funds or would like to help in more ways than just donating then please check out our support tool kit)

Are my donations, credit card information and personal information that I provide secure?

All of your information is secure. Malee (the one that pays for hosting of this website, as well as the domain name, and ongoing maintenance and more) hosts the website through Godaddy and has built this website using WordPress. Malee and her organization SEW (Support Education Worldwide) pay $200 per year to have SSL encryption on every website they run. Malee also pays $100 per year for wordfence (an added layer of protection) that emails her immediately if there is any security concern. Malee also has activated jetpack which is a wordpress feature that also provides extra security. So, there are three layers of security to this website. All of your information is secure and we have a privacy policy (you can find the link in the footer of the website) if you are concerned about our policies and how we use your information.

Why is there such a need to educate girls in your area/ country ?

Pakistan isn’t the best country in the world for education and skills development, new report states.

According to World Economic Forum’s Global Human Capital Report 2017, Pakistan is at the 125th spot out of 130 in a list that ranks countries on the basis of how well they perform in the education and skills development and infrastructure. All countries are graded on a scale of 0 to 100 in three sub indexes which include capacity, deployment, development, and know-how.

The report provides a detailed assessment of the human capital of 130 countries. Human capital is defined as the knowledge and skills people possess that enable them to create value in the global economic system. The report recognizes people’s knowledge, talents, creativity, and skills and argues on the importance of building deep and diverse talent pools that would, in turn, contribute to a country’s economy. But clearly, Pakistan is not nurturing or strengthening its human capital.

The report states that the human capital potential in Pakistan is held back by low rates of enrollment and poor-quality primary schools. However, the education performance on the tertiary level is relatively better even though skill diversity among our university graduates is low as compared to other countries. The report also indicates that there is a gender gap that needs to be addressed so that more human capital is employed.

Source : https://www.techjuice.pk/pakistan-education-skills-development-human-capital-report-2017/

Why do the women there have to be covered? Why do they dress the way they do? Can you explain this?

Pakistan is primarily Islamic so this impacts everything they do and is woven into the fabric of their culture. Even Christians (Sister Zeph, who is a Christian minority) have to adhere to the dress code. Women must be covered, even more so in village areas. This is just a part of their culture and how they live.

read more about this here: https://www.commisceo-global.com/resources/country-guides/pakistan-guide

When the women are home, at special event or parties they will wear fancy clothes such as a salwar kameez (which can be casual or fancy depending on the occasion). Textiles account for 30% of Pakistan’s overall GDP. They have some of the most beautiful clothing in the world but the women have to dress conservative when out in public. When visiting city areas women dress more modern and sometimes you can see women wearing jeans even. In the village areas where there is less literacy and more adherence to older and religious values the women have to be completely covered head to toe when going outside the home.


What are future goals of Zephaniah?

Sister Zeph has a dream to buy 8 acres of land and build a large school there with servant quarters, a hostel for girls that are orphaned and homeless, as well as living on the land itself. She also wants to grow their own food there (sort of like a commune but for school and children). She also has a plan with Malee to have their own ethical clothing business where the women can be employed (there will have to be a separate building for that) making western clothing but using the fabrics of Pakistan (the textile industry is 30% of the country’s GDP and is the second largest industry in the country behind the military). By creating a business the school will be better able to take care of itself, be sustainable, and Sister Zeph wants there to also be a daycare on campus so that the women don’t have to worry about the safety of their children while they are at work or getting an education.

How many students and young women have been impacted so far?

Since Sister Zeph has been running her school for the past 20 years we estimate that there has been between 3,000 and 4,000 lives impacted by her work (probably more) because 200 students are receiving 12 years of free education but sometimes students leave and others come to the school for varying reasons and also every year about 300 women or more receive free skills training.

Where are the facilities? The school and the skill center?

Sister Zeph lives in Gujranwala, Pakistan in a village called “Aroop Mor”. The skills center is attached to her home and the main school building is in the same village , just a 5 minute walk from her home.

About Pakistan


  • Location:   Southern Asia, bordering Afghanistan 2,430 km, China 523 km, India 2,912 km, Iran 909 km
  • Capital:  Islamabad, located in North-eastern Pakistan
  • National anthem:  ‘Qaumi Taranah’ which translates as ‘The Sacred Land’.  The music was composed by Ahmad Chagla in 1949 and the lyrics were written by Hafeez Jullundhri in 1952.  It was adopted as the official national anthem for Pakistan in 1954.
  • Ethnic Make-up: Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashtun (Pathan), Baloch, Muhajir (immigrants from India at the time of partition and their descendants)
  • Population:  201,995,540 (July 2016 est.)
  • Population growth rate:  1.45% (2016 est.)
  • Climate:  Although there are some distinct climatic differences depending on where you are in Pakistan, the climate is generally temperate and consists of three seasons which include Summer, Winter and Monsoon. The extremes of these seasons vary depending on location. If visiting, avoid the Monsoon period as the rain can play havoc with the local infrastructure and prevent you getting around as easily as you might wish. It is typically dry and hot in the south of the country and mild in the northern parts of the country.
  • Time Zone: Pakistan is UTC +5 hours with no daylight saving.
  • Currency: The Rupee
  • Government: Pakistan is a federal parliamentary republic. The government serves on a five-year term basis and is headed by the President (the official Head of State) and the Prime Minister.  There are 342 members of the National Assembly, 79% of whom are elected to their positions on the basis of popular vote.  Of these seats, 22% are reserved for women. The four provinces of Pakistan have their own legislative assembly and members are again elected by popular vote.
  • Internet penetration: At 18% (est. 2016), Pakistan has one of the lowest internet penetration rates in the world.


Although Urdu is the only official language of Pakistan, English is the lingua franca of the Pakistani elite and most of the government ministries, so it is not uncommon for companies to use English as their internal business language. 

Urdu is closely related to Hindi but is written in an extended Arabic alphabet rather than in Devanagari. Urdu also has more loans from Arabic and Persian than Hindi has.

Many other languages are spoken in Pakistan, including Punjabi, Siraiki, Sindhi, Pashtu, Balochi, Hindko, Brahui, Burushaski, Balti, Khawar, Gujrati and other languages with smaller numbers of speakers.

WARNING! Remember this is only a very basic level introduction to Pakistani culture and the people; it can not account for the diversity within Pakistani society and is not meant in any way to stereotype all Pakistanis you may meet!


Religion & Beliefs

  • Muslim 97% (Sunni 77%, Shi’a 20%), Christian, Hindu, and other (inc. Sikh) 3%
  • Islam is practised by the majority of Pakistanis and governs their personal, political, economic and legal lives.
  • Among certain obligations for Muslims are to pray five times a day – at dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset, and evening.
  • Friday is the Muslim holy day. Everything is closed.
  • During the holy month of Ramadan all Muslims must fast from dawn to dusk and are only permitted to work six hours per day. Fasting includes no eating, drinking, cigarette smoking, or gum chewing.

Major Celebrations/Secular Celebrations

In addition to the declaration of national holidays when Pakistan wins key international cricket matches, Pakistan also has 6 formal national holidays which fall on:

  • 23rd March (Pakistan Day), 1st May (May Day), August 14th (Independence Day), 6th September (Defence of Pakistan Day), 11th September (Death of Ali Jinnah) and 15th December (Birthday of Ali Jinnah)
  • The most famous festival in Pakistan is undoubtedly the seasonal kite flying festival of ‘Basant’ which marks the beginning of Spring and falls late January or early February. Unfortunately however, this festival has been banned in many areas for the immediate future due to accidents and deaths associated with the festival. It is hoped that the implementation of relevant safety measures will enable this much loved festival to resume. 
  • Another much loved festival is the annual ‘Utchal’ festival which is held on the 15th – 16th July to celebrate the harvesting of wheat and barley.
  • The national Horse and Cattle Show is a five day festival held in Lahore during the third week of November.  This is an exciting pageant of Pakistani culture and involves activities such as folk dancing, music, folk games and activities, cattle racing and cattle dancing.  With lots to do for children and adults alike, it is a much adored festival. 

The Family

  • The extended family is the basis of the social structure and individual identity.
  • It includes the nuclear family, immediate relatives, distant relatives, tribe members, friends, and neighbours.
  • Loyalty to the family comes before all other social relationships, even business.
  • Nepotism is viewed positively, since it guarantees hiring people who can be trusted, which is crucial in a country where working with people one knows and trusts is of primary importance.
  • The family is more private than in many other cultures.
  • Female relatives are protected from outside influences. It is considered inappropriate to ask questions about a Pakistani’s wife or other female relatives.
  • Families are quite large by western standards, often having up to 6 children.

[Cricket is by far the most popular sport in Pakistan. Once the sun starts to go down it is very common to see adults and children alike playing the game until dark]

Social Stratification

Although there is no caste system in Pakistan, Shi’as, Baluchis and Pashtuns are more likely to live in poverty due to their ethnic and religious differences.

Gender Roles

  • Traditional gender roles in Pakistan are fairly marked in that women are far more likely to stay in the home than go out to work.
  • Although women have the right to work in any profession or to manage their own businesses, the majority that do work are typically employed in roles such as nursing or teaching.
  • It is worth noting that women are very well represented in government as demonstrated by the appointment of Benazir Bhutto to prime minister in 1988. Women are also represented as ministers and ambassadors and a number of female judges preside within the high courts. Pakistani women also have the same rights to vote and receive an education as men. 
  • Unfortunately, crimes against women appear to be on the increase but government interventions are being put in place to try and reverse this issue.


  • The mother is the  main caregiver for any children and they will typically spend the  majority of time with her.
  • The extended family also play a key role in a child’s socialisation and will support the child’s care.
  • Islamic understanding, observing Islamic duties (such as prayer and ablution), respect for elders and gender roles are imbued from early childhood.


Although there are many staple dishes in Pakistan, cuisine can vary greatly depending on geography. Meat is halal and has been slaughtered in line with Islamic requirements.  Pork is forbidden in Islam and, as such, you are unlikely to come across it during your travels.

The majority of Pakistanis eat breakfast, lunch and a large evening meal which is shared as a family. Breakfast usually includes bread, tea, fruits, eggs and other items such as honey and nuts. Lunch is typically rice and a meat based curry.

Dinner is very much a family affair and it typically incorporates one or more of the following dishes:

  • Kofte – Meat kebab.
  • Korma – Meat or vegetables, cooked in yoghurt and spices.
  • Biryani – An aromatic rice dish cooked with vegetables or meat and containing s little gravy.
  • Pulao – Very similar to Biryani.  The differences between Biryani and Pulao are often debated but it’s generally agreed that Pulao is slightly blander with less cooking time and spice.
  • Lentils – Lentils are a very important addition to Asian cooking and are prepared in a number of different ways – usually with spices and a gravy
  • Roti or Naan – Both roti and naan are flatbreads, but naan takes longer to make and is often made with yeast and refined flour, while roti is made with unrefined flour and far thinner and easier to digest.  The naan is sometimes flavoured with spices, fruit or nuts.

International food is also a growing trend in Pakistan and food outlets are becoming more diverse in their offerings

The Economy

  • Pakistan is a developing economy which is listed as one of the ‘Next 11’.  The ‘Next 11’ is a list of countries which have been assessed as having the potential to become leading financial powers in the 21st century. These eleven countries are in addition to BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).
  • Pakistan is the 24th largest global economic country and GDP places it in 143rd position.

The Arts

Pakistan has a rich culture of arts and crafts which have in some cases been traced back to the artistic culture of the Indus Valley civilization.  Some examples of Pakistani love for arts are as follows:

  • Arabic calligraphy – This beautiful art form, which takes years of dedication to learn, has its roots in Islam.  Arabic calligraphy can be found adorning most celebrated places such as mosques and important buildings. Most families will have calligraphy displayed in their homes. This art form also extends to calligraphy on copper pieces, which are widely used as ornaments in homes and public buildings.
  • Naqashi  – This art form is essentially a form of papier mache, which was much loved by the Mughal Emperors.  Naqashi artisans are typically use a fine and intricate form of decoration which is said to impact vision in the long term if practiced over too long a time scale. This use of fine detail is also replicated in the crafting of camel skin in lamp shade making.  The lamp shades are unique and much sought after.
  • Glass Chooriyan is another popular and much loved art form in Pakistan which involves the use of glass and other materials to produce beautifully adorned bangles.
  • Pottery – The production of handcrafted and artistically decorated pottery is just one of the arts with its roots in the Indus Valley civilization. Blue Pottery is a specialist craft which is particularly influenced by Kashgar in China and celebrated for being a unique and unparalleled art form.

Reference: https://www.commisceo-global.com/resources/country-guides/pakistan-guide