The modern day hero is almost an ordinary person doing a commendable job for an extensive period of time. Margaret Madden is a typical modern day hero and she has dedicated her life to help people realise their own potential.

Margaret was born in Ipswich, a coal mining town in Queensland, Australia. Her father was a carpenter/wood machinist (wood carver) and her mother was a nurse. Margaret the youngest of three children finished her schooling at St Mary’s College in Ipswich and six months later joined the Convent of the Sisters of Mercy. From an early age, Margaret put her faith in education to pursue a certification in teaching and theology.

Following a bachelor’s degree from Queensland, she earned a masters in Education and Theology from the University of Toronto, Canada, and a doctorate from Deakin University, Australia.

For many years she taught at Catholic schools in Gympie, Toowoomba, Brisbane and Stanthorpe in Australia. In addition to being a teacher and a university lecturer she also became an administrator and an educational leader in her community.

Meanwhile, the Australian Sisters of Mercy were busy working for humanity on a global level and Margaret wanted to chip in. She visited Pakistan in 1991 for three months during which she also witnessed the birth of what today is Australia’s priceless contribution to Pakistan, the Notre Dame Institute of Education (NDIE), a teachers’ training institute affiliated with the Australian Catholic University.

After her three-month stint in Pakistan, Margaret returned to Australia. She was a successful growing mid-career professional in Australia and member of the board in colleges, youth programmes, theological associations and even a hospital, when she was asked by the Sisters of Mercy to place her efforts at NDIE in Pakistan. That was when she decided to leave her home and her career in Australia to resettle in Pakistan. Her reason was simple, the people of Pakistan were struggling in several areas and she knew that it was not the Australians but Pakistanis who really needed her. If she could do this for the teachers here, then those teachers could take it to their schools and then the next generation of Pakistanis would grow up differently.

Margaret chose to promote education in a politically volatile country that mostly had little regard for its worth. She joined NDIE as a permanent staff member in 1995, teaching educational psychology, curriculum studies to the bachelors and masters levels as well as coordinating and designing the masters in Education programme. In the 1990s, she experienced being trapped in the middle of a street firing incident but even that did little to deter her and she has been working in Pakistan for 16 years now.

The last 16 years have seen Margaret playing an influential role in guiding the country’s youth. Since 2001, she has been director at NDIE and has supervised the passing of hundreds of students in bachelors in Education/International graduate certificate in Education as well as 93 masters in Education graduates. This year she launched a new programme for experienced educators, a masters in Educational Leadership.

She has the primary role in maintaining the harmonious NDIE culture and modern facilities. Taking opinions from her colleagues and listening closely to students reveals her democratic nature. Margaret recognises individuals, provides them an opportunity to speak and a place to stand. She shares an international vision, nurtures people to grow and so bring change. Her efforts here make her heroic.

For the last 10 years, Margaret has served as a board member for NDIE, Teachers Resource Centre, Programme Office for Education, Board of Studies—Faculty of Arts and Education (University of Karachi), National Catholic Institute of Theology, and the National Catholic Education Commission.

Last year, she was also appointed a board member of the Sindh Teacher Education Development Authority. Amidst so many responsibilities, Margaret still finds time for conducting educational research, workshops, key note addresses and other presentations. This year she also co-authored a research paper with three of her NDIE faculty members.

But after 16 years of service and a decade of being the director, Margaret has now chosen to step down from the position and return to Australia. However, a hero’s job is never done.

The Sisters of Mercy for over 20 years planned to eventually hand over the running of NDIE to local Pakistanis. Now that Margaret is leaving, that time has come. Margaret has initiated a three-year transition programme during the course of which she will be in Pakistan for several months each year as a liaison from Australian Catholic University and will provide close support to the new director of NDIE Ms Audrey Juma.

Margaret sacrificed personally as well as professionally and braved many dangers and frustrations to be here with us for so many years. No amount of loan or financial aid compares to her physical presence and work. Her contribution towards education in Pakistan has been immense, her story extraordinary, and we celebrate her for the modern day hero that she is.

The writers are Notre Dame B.Ed/IGCE graduates


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