NEW YORK - Pakistan progressing towards meeting the "imposing challenge" of providing educational needs of the nation's children, Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi, the Pakistani permanent representative to the United Nations, told a largely-attended fundraising event in New York.

"Although much more needs to be done, I believe we are beginning to turn the corner back home," she told the gathering at a local hotel in which many Americans took part.

The event was organised by Developments in Literacy (DIL), an organisation founded in 1997 by Pakistani expatriates in the United States that educates and empowers underprivileged students, especially girls, by operating student-centered model schools; and provides high-quality professional development to teachers and principals across Pakistan.

Dil now runs 124 schools in Pakistan, educating 21,000 students last year, of which 66% percent were girls. The organisation employees over 1,000 teachers.

Ambassador Lodhi was the guest of honour at the event, along with Shazia Sikander, the renowned Lahore-born artist, who has won top Pakistani and American awards for her work.

The Pakistani envoy also introduced to the audience Afreen Mushtaq, whom the organisers described as one of "Dil's superstar students." Ms Mushtaq, who lives in Orangi, is a 10th grade student at Dil's J-9 Paradise School.

The Pakistani ambassador called a "transformational path" the way teachers were now hired and the way they were held to account. In the Punjab, she said, over 30,000 newly recruited teachers were qualified, highly energetic people, adding that the days of hiring political workers as teachers were over not just in the land of five rivers but also across the country. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, she pointed out, had also adopted a strict merit policy on recruitment.

"The result is a new energy in public sector schools," Ambassador Lodhi said, noting that it was far from perfect, but was a great start. "DIL can be proud of the example it has set as a trailblazer for better teachers in every classroom."

In addition, she said the low-cost private schooling was expanding all over the country and transforming the educational landscape and making education accessible to those who could not afford it in the past. "This has put more girls in schools than ever in the past," she said, adding, "We need to get every girl into school but again this is a good beginning."

Ambassador Lodhi praised Dil's contribution saying that organizations like it "had keep hope alive, that keep the flame burning, that stir the passion and inspire us. DIL is at the beating heart of the Pakistani spirit of enterprise and problem solving.

'But we also have resilience. We have passion. We have "HEART." Paying tributes to Malala Yusufzai, who took a bullet in the head as she campaigned for education, said the Nobel Peace Prize winner has had such a profound impact on the global conversation about education. "She took that bullet as a symbol of the absolutely non-negotiable and urgent need to make education an innate part of growing up for every girl, in every place and for all times," she said.

"Going back to DIL," Ambassador Lodhi said, "I want to pay tribute to its many heroes like Farzana Sial of Khairpur. In fact DIL has over a thousand teachers like Farzana. It has Four vocational training centers. It has given over 840 scholarships. That is awesome."