KU classrooms | Student unions in universities

In the classrooms of KU, some topics are a big no-no
Karachi, July 23: In a Socratic classroom, questions about ideas and values are discussed, students contribute, diverse voices are heard, and learning goes both ways.

Unfortunately, the classrooms at the University of Karachi (KU) - the city's biggest public sector varsity - are anything but Socratic.

In a communication class, a discussion about religion versus the state erupted. A student raised her hand to make a point on why she favoured secularism. "The teacher asked me to stop right there and come into her room for further discussion. There, the teacher joked that were some things that cannot be talked about inside the classroom," shared the third year student of mass communication.

In yet another incident, after declaring a student's presentation of a final year Bachelor's class on child abuse "daring", the teacher remarked, "We all know in which educational institute child molestation takes place the most, but if I talk about it in detail, I might get beaten up." She was alluding to Madrassahs.

Students listed a number of "taboo topics and no-go areas" on which if a discussion steers towards, the classroom comes to an uncomfortable abrupt end.

"Ethnic differences, sectarian violence and political parties are no-go areas," said a student.

Another student, grinning, pointed out "sex and blasphemy".

"Religion, the Shia-Sunni divide, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism. Apparently, we are all brothers in faith," said Sidra Rizvi, a final year student in the art faculty.

"Certain political leaders," quipped another.

Professor Mutahir Ahmed of the International Relations Department shared an incident that happened in the year 2003.

"I used to teach a European History compulsory course. Renaissance, reformation and the separation of the state and religion was part of the course. In one of my lectures, I discussed secularism in detail. A few days later, I received a letter from the vice-chancellor's office. It was an anonymous letter in Urdu addressed to the vice chancellor."

In the letter, the professor was accused of inducing "infidel thoughts" among students. "If you do not do something about the teacher, we will," it was warned in the letter.

Mutahir laughed as he recalled the story. He dropped the course then. "I just teach one optional course now, with students not more than 20 in the class. And I tell students on my first day that let your religion and political beliefs stay at home; here we will discuss everything under the sun."

Moonis Ahmer, director of the Area Study Centre for Europe at University of Karachi, believes there is "suffocation in the classrooms" and teachers "sometimes preach ideologies".

"The suffocation was at its peak during Zia's era. Now, things have improved a bit."

He said teachers, who were not well-informed themselves, were the ones to "snub questions the most". "I, as a practice, ask students to ask questions relevant to the topic in the discussion."

Dr Jaffer Ahmed, chairperson of the Area Study Centre for Pakistan Studies, has 35 years of teaching experience at the campus. He said classroom censorship differed from department to department, depending on how conservative or liberal the majority of the faculty was.

"During Zia's era, I have talked about religious fundamentalism and military dictatorship to my students. Speaking to the activists of the Islami Jamiat Talba, I have decently differed on Maulana Maududi's stance about Pakistan before Partition."

He believes it comes down to the integrity of a teacher. "One must take the students into confidence, let them differ and discussions should be purely academic in nature."

Educational institutions are not exclusive of the society. They reflect the situation of the city in general. "The same topics you dare not talk about with the wider public in Karachi are the ones you cannot talk about inside the classroom," maintained Mutahir. The news

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KU announces semester forms submission schedule
Karachi: On the directives of Vice Chancellor of University of Karachi (KU) Prof Dr Muhammad Qaiser, the semester eExaminations department has issued a schedule for submitting the forms. According to a release from KU here on Sunday, the students should submit their semester forms without late fees up to September 30. They would have to pay Rs 1,000 as late fees, for late submission up to October 15. The students have been cautioned that if they fail to submit their forms within the scheduled dates, these would not be accepted later on. app

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KU cancels admissions of students with forged documents
Karachi: Director Admissions at University of Karachi (KU) Professor Dr Khalid Iraqi cancelled the admission of five candidates who submitted forged intermediate mark sheets, a spokesperson of the KU said on Sunday.

According to a notification issued Memona Raza d/o Shahab Raza, Khalid Hameed s/o Adaalat Khan, Saeed s/o Muhammad Saeed, Darosha Nadeem d/o Nadeem Zahid and Sania Jawed d/o Jawed Tahir Alvi, submitted fake documents to get admissions in the BS Honours and Pharm-D programmes of the public sector varsity. The step was taken after the mark sheets were verified by the Board of Intermediate Education Karachi (BIEK), KU officials said.

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KU distributes EU scholarships
Karachi: The University of Karachi (KU) announced on Sunday that the varsity had awarded the European Union (EU) Scholarship to at least seven people. "Due to the fact that KU is one of the premier institutions of higher learning and research, it has been enlisted in the top universities of world. The pace of development will be continued with great rigor and motivation", said Vice-Chancellor (VC) KU Professor Dr Muhammad Qaiser during the EU Scholarship distribution ceremony, which was organised by former Pro-VC of KU Professor, Dr Shahana Urooj Kazmi.

The current VC of KU said that the people awarded with these scholarships would act as the ambassadors of Pakistan at their respective foreign universities. He added that these scholarships were a testament to the fact that KU's education standards were at par with the academic quality of institutions abroad.

Dr Qaiser said that the university would continue helping students in the future. On the occasion, Dr Kazmi explained that KU first applied for the concerned foreign programme and the application was approved by the EU.

The fact needs to be accentuated that KU was the first Pakistani university to be selected as a consortium member of the EU project Erasmus Mundus Europe Asia. Seven candidates were awarded the scholarship which include Mariya Khan Assistant Registrar (BASR Section), Waqar Ahmed Environmental Studies, Muhammad Faisal Awan Department of International Relations, Saima Malhi Department of Pharmacy, Amber Atta Department of Chemistry (HEJ Institute), Nafees Anwar Siddiqui Department of Statistics and M. Irfan Department of Chemistry (HEJ Institute).

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Student unions may help curb campus violence
Karachi: Apolitical students have often blamed student political factions rampant in public sector universities for campus violence; the solution they claim is restoring student unions.

"Banning student unions is the root of the problem," said Mutahir Ahmed, who teaches at the University of Karachi's (KU) Department of International Relations.

KU Vice-Chancellor Professor Muhammad Qaiser agrees. Talking about the menace of student politics in an interview published on April 9 he said, "The only solution is restoring student unions".

The question that remains unanswered is: how will lifting the ban de-weaponise the campus or ensure that the newly formed student unions will not be influenced by political parties?

After strolling down history and talking to various teachers at the university, a number of facts emerge.

Mutahir claims that student unions were first banned in 1984. But incidence of violence and the use of weapons emerged much before that.

The Islami Jamiat Talba (IJT) first emerged in the 1960s, and was strongly opposed by the newly formed All Pakistan Mohajir Student Organisation, during the 1970s.

Moonis Ahmar, director of the KU's Area Study Centre for Europe, said, "Political violence erupted in campuses after a certain dictator patronised a particular student group. In 1978-79, armed conflicts first occurred when the Kalashnikov found its way into the hands of these Jihadi elements."

A chronology in a discussion paper titled, "Proposed Revival of Student Unions in Pakistan", prepared by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency, states that in 1985 though permission of revival of student unions was granted in Sindh, elections did not take place at the KU.

In 1988, Benazir Bhutto lifted the ban on student politics in her opening address to the parliament, exactly like Yusuf Raza Gilani did when he took oath in 2008. "It was in the year 1989 that the officially-recognised student union elections took place across universities and colleges in Pakistan," it was stated in the paper.

But Professor Muhammad Qaiser pointed out that 1989 was also the year when three students died in clash in the KU and Rangers were posted in the campus.

The situation deteriorated over the years, so much so that in recent cases, student clashes erupt on issues as petty as the hoisting of a political party's flag or wall chalking that hurts a particular group's sentiments.

'Unions the only solution'
When contacted the mainstream student political groups unanimously agreed that student unions were the only solution for peace in campus, while quickly adding their political parties were anti-violence.

Sohaib Ahmed, the IJT's press secretary, said, "Since student unions have been dissolved, political parties have also begun paying less attention to giving membership to students with high academic potential."

Pakhtun Student Federation Sindh General Secretary Painda Khan said, "The only way all student political parties will agree to sit at one table and talk is if the government takes them on board." He added that violence will decrease after the creation of student unions as, "Once a student political group wins election at a campus, all others will become submissive to that one party".

When the All Pakistan Mutahidda Student Organisation was contacted, Shabbir Ali Babar, their information secretary said, "Governor Ishratul Ebad can solve the problem. A conference to review the policies taken by the government should be called, and violence before and after the ban should be monitored. All stakeholders should be taken into confidence."

However the sentiments of these student political factions itself is enough reason to worry. In a situation where weapons are part and parcel of student politics, will a student union serve the purpose of ensuring peace? Or will the neutral student dare to compete in an election which is already tainted with violence?

"It will be unreasonable to expect that in the very first election, student unions will become apolitical. For some years, the same old workers and policies will stay in power, maybe in the garb of different flags and banners. Give it a couple of years, and fresh faces and enlightened ideas will revamp the scene," said Hina Mujeeb Alam, a Masters student at the KU's Department of Mass Communication.

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Aligarian vows to set up university in Bangladesh similar to SSUET
Karachi: The General Secretary of Aligarh Muslim University Old Boys Association (AMUOBA) - Bangladesh Chapter announced the establishment of a university in his homeland which would follow a pattern similar to the Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology (SSUET).

Professor Dr Shah Kausar Mustafa on Sunday vowed to establish the university while addressing students and faculty members of the Aligarh Muslim University during a reception held in his honour at SSUET.

Dr Mustafa said the establishment of SSUET virtually fulfilled the mission of great reformer and educationist Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. "I am keenly working along with my compatriots for the establishment of a university along the patterns SSUET", he stated and hoped that with the Aligarh within him, he would succeed in his mission.

On this occasion, Absar Mustafa another guest from Aligarh described SSUET as an ideal educational institution and said the quality of its laboratories were impressive. He advised the university to offer admissions to foreign students so its identity could be spread all over the world.

He informed the faculty members of SSUET and other participants of the ceremony that all possible facilities are provided to students at the Aligarh Muslim University, where students are charged only Rs9 as hostel fee.

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Teacher breaks 4-year-old's hand
Karachi: A brutal beating by a tuition teacher resulted in a broken hand for a four-year-old girl on Sunday

Amina, the daughter of Altaf Hussain, was beaten by her teacher Saniya in the latter's residence located in Rufi Green City of Gulistan-e-Jauhar's Block-B. The teacher allegedly broke Saniya's hands and there were also marks on her back.

The minor girl's father reported the case at the Sharea Faisal police station. However, the law enforcers did not lodge an FIR against the teacher. The news

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