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Interview: Educationist to the core

Interview: Educationist to the core

Mahboobul Rahman Khan is an educationist to the core; he has taught at various institutes during his 60-year academic career; he is a bibliophile and a keen reader of history. After doing his BA from Aligarh he came to Pakistan and did his MA in English, political science and history from the University of Peshawar. He served as the principal of the Degree College, Quetta; as assistant professor of the F.G. Degree College, Peshawar; and as the head of the humanities programme at the Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology. He has also been a member of the examination reform committee and a panellist on the Balochistan Text Book Board.

Besides his academic career he has also written countless programmes for PTV and Radio Pakistan and has worked as a compere in a large number of their programmes.

Mr Khan shared his experiences in an interview at his residence in Wah.

Q. As a witness to Partition, what would you say about the critical role played by the founder of the country?

A. During the Pakistan movement millions of people sacrificed [their] lives and livelihood, millions became homeless; millions were killed while coming to Pakistan but Muslim leaders stood like rocks.

It was the charismatic Quaid-i-Azam who fought brilliantly against all odds, created unity in the ranks of the Muslims, and foiled both Hindus and British who were bent upon killing the establishment of the Muslim state.

It is true that the All India Muslim League leaders have played a great role in the struggle for Pakistan but without Quaid-i-Azam’s courageous endeavours it was quite an uphill task to materialise our dream of a sovereign state.

I think without Quaid-i-Azam there would have been no Pakistan. It was not a one-man achievement but … he not only succeeded in establishing Pakistan but also helped it sail through a very terrible storm of initial difficulties.

Q. How would you compare the environment at your alma mater, Aligarh, with the present one at universities in Pakistan?

A. Aligarh is engraved in my mind. I still walk on the Aligarh campus in [my] sleep; it will stay with me till my last breath. [As] Agha Khan III said: ‘Pakistan was created at Aligarh’. True, the knowledge candle lit in Aligarh by Sir Syed spread its light all around the globe, helped the Muslims to … fight for their rights, and finally culminated in Pakistan’s independence.

If we compare Aligarh with the current milieu in our educational institutions, there is no doubt that facilities have improved; the number of students, universities and academic staff have increased manifold, the courses are modernised but the enthusiasm and determination of the students to gain knowledge, are missing.

Functionality is an integral part of academic life. In my entire 60 years of teaching, only once was I late by one-and-a-half minutes but I apologised to the class. When I was studying in high school [part of Aligarh] several times I saw my aged teacher, Syed Muhammad Tonki running to reach the school in time. This spirit hardly remains alive in our educational institutions.

We produce highly self-serving graduates. Our institutions should produce graduates of integrity. What you give to your country is more important than what you get. I believe that our present failure in different fields in national life is a failure of education.

Q. Comparing the past with the present, what difference do you see in relations between faculty and students?

A. The special relationship between academia and students no longer remains intact. In the past, the teachers worked as mentors and used to guide students, setting personal examples.

Another strange aspect is the unprecedented inclination of Pakistani students towards Western culture at the cost of their own. Majority of those who went abroad for higher education haven’t returned home. It’s the result of lack of patriotism, quest of economic prosperity and security, for which the rulers, academia and parents are responsible. There is no job security and none of the rulers are ready to pay any heed.

Q. What should be offered by universities and how can Pakistani varsities be improved?

A. Universities should offer a study-oriented atmosphere. Only a stimulating peaceful environment helps students realise their full intellectual, moral and social potential.

For example, the Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute is situated in an isolated place and its [distance] from the clamour and glamour of cities provides a golden opportunity for students to concentrate on their study and research work. It is counted among the reputed world universities of engineering education. However, universities shouldn’t rest on their laurels. The quest for quality education is a continuous and never-ending endeavour. The journey of knowledge knows no limits.

Q. To what extent do you think teachers influence Pakistan’s education system?

A. The teacher’s influence is felt far beyond the institutions. His words, his functionality, his knowledge-conveying capability and character continue to inspire students and the wider society.

Only competent teachers have the ability and power to motivate students; a teacher is a great role model. ... If teacher [are] really teachers, their influence is felt everywhere while playing a critical role in shaping society. Do we have teachers of such calibre?

Pakistan’s education landscape needs result-oriented reforms. The irony is that there are systems within our education system. If we fail to [keep pace with]educational advancement then it might be difficult for us to achieve development in numerous fields.

It is true that in our country the experience of the aged academia has not been utilised, always lost with the passing of older academics. We should accumulate the wisdom of the older academia and codify it to serve and guide the present and future faculty.

The writer is Dawn’s Correspondent in Swabi

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, April 10th, 2016

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