Category Archives: Education

A friend of 50 years

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By Zubeida A.Dossal

This article is my loving and fond tribute to Anita — Anita whom I was honoured and privileged to have as a friend for more than fifty years. She was indeed a friend in every sense of the word — loving, appreciative, caring and ever so helpful. Her many gifts of head and heart have helped many a person and friend. She made happy things happier and sad ones a little less so by her sympathy and her sharing and care, which she did so gracefully.

What I enjoyed was her joie de vivre, which she passed on to those around her. Here I recall my first meeting with my friend. Very vivid till today (50+ years later) is my meeting or rather my first view of Anita Ghulamali.

I was then the headmistress of the SMB Fatema Jinnah School and had been asked by Mrs Zaibunissa Hamidullah‎ the editor and owner of the Mirror, to interview Anita Ghulamali. I did not know her, but rang her up to request an interview. I told her I was new to Karachi and did not know the roads very well and might be a little early or late. Continue reading

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Legacy unbounded

Anita Ghulam Ali (Photo source: dawn.com)

By Zubeida Mustafa

Do icons really pass away? They can’t, because being iconic makes them immortal in the public collective consciousness. And it is an icon that Anita Ghulamali had become. What made her so outstanding was her will to take on the most powerful enemies of education in Pakistan.

Her constituency comprised the common people. Her battles were fought for them and the only battle she lost was with death on Aug 8. The outpouring of admiration and affection for her that has followed testifies to her sincerity.

She is being eulogised most for her contribution to education and rightly so. But the difference she made to this key social sector has yet to make an impact. I am confident her ideas will prevail, though it may take time. In education the decay begins insidiously and reform is a long-drawn process that spans generations. Continue reading

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Education: A victim of expediency

By Zubeida Mustafa
From Dawn Archives Library 9 & 16 Oct 1987

Education in Pakistan is in a state of crisis. Not only has the government failed to fulfil this basic need of the citizens by establishing educational institutions in sufficient numbers, the quality of the education available is also deplorably poor. Given the weaknesses in the education system, it is not surprising that only 26 per cent of Pakistanis are literate (taking a technical definition of literacy), only 50 per cent of the primary school-age children are enrolled in schools and 50 per cent of them drop out before they complete five years of schooling.

The statistics for women are even more depressing. Only sixteen per cent of them are literate — seven per cent in the rural areas — 32 per cent girls in the 5-9 years age group are enrolled in school and eight per cent attend higher secondary school. Continue reading

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Points of order

Professor Anita Ghulam Ali talks about the latest object of her passion

By Zubeida Mustafa
From Dawn Archives Library 28 June 1998

Pakistan is a country which has been ignominiously sliding down the Human Development Index of the UNDP — from 94th in 1990 to 139th in 1997. Today only 13 countries out of the 175 listed have a lower score than Pakistan’s in the education index, which is calculated on the basis of adult literacy rate and gross enrolment ratio in schools. In this dismal scenario when things seem to be falling apart one can get cynical about optimists like Professor Anita Ghulam Ali, the Managing Director of the Sindh Education Foundation.

She says that she feels hopeful that the situation will improve. When you visit her spick and span office in Clifton with its neatly laid out garden patch and are reminded twice by its dynamic MD that this too is a government office, you are forced to concede that the official machinery can work if the will is present. As she proudly shows you round, you note that the environment is too pleasant for it to be the usual kind of government institution one is accustomed to — you make a mental comparison with the decrepit passport office, which you had visited a few weeks ago and which earns a handsome revenue for the exchequer. The SEF’s library, computers, notice-boards with colourful pictures pinned on them, spotless floors free of paan stains makes it more like the office of a private sector organization. Continue reading

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Pakistan Zindabad- the Absolute Patriot

Professor Anita Ghulam Ali
1934-2014

By Baela Raza Jamil
The Apprentice of Anita Ghulam Ali
guest-contributorSo I missed her last rites which I should have performed preparing Anita Apa for the next life –I wanted that last breeze to  blow on my face blessing me with her provocation and sensitivity as she had done for millions in her life. That was not to be.  Yes she was a true blue blood citizen of this country – the few who can claim blue blood in citizenship – she was one of the toppers. Her values were self- crafted and self- imposed; she stood against all opposition to create and follow them and no one could convince her otherwise. Yes she walked the talk; yes she embraced innovation and humanity and her mind kept buzzing with ideas until the very end – her brains never gave up even for a second.

My memories of her are since 1974 when I visited her at the Sindh Muslim College where she was energizing her students and the institution in the midst of some controversy and then some years later at her apartment trying to understand her role as the President of the Pakistan  College Teachers’ Association for my research. At that point I had decided that if ever I wanted to serve an apprenticeship it would be with her.  Continue reading

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Rainbow in My Cloud

By Sadaf Zuberi​

guest-contributor“I shall not look upon her like again” (abstracted from Hamlet Act 1 sc. 2)

​We all thought she was immortal. Some people you imagine will live for ever. But then some do. They continue to live. In your heart. In thoughts. In our actions.

Each of us whose lives she touched carry some shade of Professor Anita Ghulam Ali in them. Her institution of a personality and an unwavering drive to be the change. An icon of integrity, commitment and perseverance. Fighter. Activist. Educationist. Teacher. Mentor. Confidant. Friend. Guru. And Guide.

But we knew her more.

As a voracious reader. Connoisseur of Arts. A naturalist at heart. Generous to a fault and hospitable to the core. Her extraordinary rapport with all and the impeccable ability to make each one feel special. Continue reading

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TV then and now

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by Rifaat Hamid Ghani

TV started out in Pakistan as a government monopoly dressed up as a semi-autonomous corporation. There was every reason for PTV to be a disaster, yet it was an enviable success.

President Field Marshal Ayub loved it for its power as a propaganda tool that dispensed with literacy requirements and had more magnetism than the radio. Aslam Azhar, PTV’s defining and trail-blazing station-manager, loved it for what it could do to educate and inform. That was the idealist in him. The actor in him loved it because it was a creative medium. The PTV he nurtured with a board of imaginative mandarins to back him, had an egalitarian working environment and it changed norms and mores.

All within the parameters of the Ministry of Information’s most stringent rules the new medium empowered women, dignified the artiste, and changed social conventions. PTV gave the artistes and creators of drama, music, dance, a place to go and be and earn. It gave the entertainment industry a respectability which assured parents their young could participate despite the amazingly irregular working hours and rather low grade recognition granted the programme producer, bureaucratically speaking. Of course the outreach of PTV’s state propaganda was soul-deadening – but even so programmes like Alif Noon redeemed much. And in terms of professionalism and entertainment value the quality of PTV programming and production and technical transmission dominated the region and was an exemplar.

Cut to now. Continue reading

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O the rankings again

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By Zubeida Mustafa

THE Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings released last week offers some food for thought — that is, if we do not dismiss this annual exercise as a Jewish conspiracy. For Pakistan the bad news is that none of our universities figure in the first 400 institutions of higher education ranked globally. Pakistan failed to make it even to the top 100 Asian institutions.

Using carefully selected criteria, THE ranks universities across the globe according to their “core missions — teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.” As can be expected, American and European universities have the highest ranking — the California Institute of Technology, Harvard University and the University of Oxford are the top three. Asia also boasts of 20 universities that are part of this prestigious global list — the University of Tokyo was judged as the best in the continent, and China, Korea and Singapore are making remarkable headway. Continue reading

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How the women of Pakistan cope with war, honor killing and prejudice

By Zubeida Mustafa

How do women cope in Pakistan? This is a question I am very frequently asked by people in the West who are flooded by news of all the incessant outrageous happenings in my country. One cannot deny that in times of crisis that have global bearings—as in the Afghan war of the 1980s and the post-9/11 years—Pakistan receives more than its share of publicity in the international media. Regrettably, most of it is negative. And quite a lot of it is also true.

However, like the proverbial half-empty or half-full glass, the impression one forms depends on the context in which one sees a situation. Since the reporting tends to be heavily based on received wisdom, the truth does not emerge fully. As a result, only the bad news of the half-empty glass is reported, which reinforces the fears of skeptics: The fires of violence in Pakistan will engulf the world and destroy it. But there is no mention of the half-full glass that gives many of us hope. Continue reading

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Education myths

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By Zubeida Mustafa

IT is budget time in Pakistan and one issue of special concern to the people is the attention that the education sector will receive from those who hold the purse strings. In the federal budget for 2014-15 Finance Minister Ishaq Dar announced an allocation of Rs63bn for higher education. The true picture will emerge only when the provincial budgets are presented, as they address the bulk of the education sector.

There are, however, a number of myths that surround this vital area of national life. One that has been perpetuated for long is that the more funds poured into education the more the latter will improve. For long the size of the education budget has been used as a yardstick to measure the government’s commitment to this sector. Hence the boast generally in budget speeches about the size of the education expenditure. Continue reading

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