Sabha Ghani was destined to be a teacher. As a child, she loved to play school, and she was always pretending to be the teacher.
She would even go so far as to write report cards for the neighbourhood children to show their parents. Fast-forward several decades – last week, Ghani begins her 19th year as a social studies teacher at Burnaby South Secondary school, and her passion is stronger than ever.
Ghani loves to teach social studies, which includes both history and geography. One of her favourite topics is how human rights have evolved over time, especially for immigrant communities in Canada. She makes sure her students understand how hard people in Canada fought for their rights, and how important it is to keep making progress.
Ghani’s classes always have a call to action. She pushes her students to identify what matters to them as Canadians, whether that’s a human rights issue, an environmental issue, or something else altogether. Then, she encourages students to actually do something to protect what they value. By using examples from history, she shows students that they can make a positive impact – they just need to find what they are passionate about and go for it.
She leads her students by example. Several years ago, she nominated the Komagata Maru incident to be commemorated by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. The Komagata Maru incident was a black mark in Canadian history where racist immigration policies prevented South Asian immigrants from settling in Canada. A brave group of South Asian people chartered a ship – the Komagata Maru – to Canada to fight these laws. After two months of failed negotiations, the ship and its passengers were turned away from Vancouver at gunpoint. Ghani has long seen this incident as a defining event in Canadian history, and she worked hard to prove that it should be given its due recognition.
Thanks to her historical expertise, her proposal was successful. This summer, she unveiled a national commemorative plaque for the event and was honoured to give the historical address at two separate events, one attended by B.C. Attorney General Susan Anton, and the other by Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan. Ghani noted that the very same regiment that turned away the passengers at gunpoint in 1914, was commanded by Sajjan, a South Asian immigrant, less than 100 years later.
Of her experience getting the commemoration for the Komagata Maru incident, Ghani said, “You don’t expect as a social studies teacher that you are going to be making history.”
We would argue that by encouraging her students to follow in her footsteps and fight for what they value about Canada, she is making history in more ways than one.
Read more B.C. student success stories.