Fatima Jinnah College & Zindagi trust

Students await Zindagi as college held hostage
Karachi, Nov 17: The teachers of Sindh Madrassa Board (SMB) Fatima Jinnah Government Girls College are pressurizing the students to protest against Zindagi Trust for adopting their college, it was reliably learnt. Students at the college seem suitable impressed at the atmosphere in which the school section has been operating since the past year.

The SMB School was handed over to the Zindagi Trust and the Book Group under the Adopt-A-School program. Both NGOs are currently involved in the education sector, and were granted permission through a government notification issued last year. Many express the hope that one day their college will also be made part of the experiment taking place at the SMB School. However, their hopes have thus far been dashed due to a controversy that has erupted between stakeholders, it was learnt.

The experiment with the school was a resounding success. The new management was not only able to motivate students and teachers but was also successful in attracting private and public funding to drastically improve the educational experience of the 2,400 students who study in the facility.

Their achievement prompted the Sindh Government to issue another notification to the Trust to adopt the college situated in the same building. However, this seemed a recipe for disaster as teachers and groups with vested interests protested the move.

The controversy started after students and teachers of Rana Liaquat Ali Khan Government College of Home Economics and Khatoon-e-Pakistan Government Girls College held consecutive protests in September against the Sindh Government for issuing a third notification for handing over the management of these colleges to the Zindagi Trust. The teachers and students of both these colleges were backed by the Sindh Professors and Lecturers Association (SPLA), which put immense pressure on the government and the notification was withdrawn the next day.

Following this development, the teachers of SMB Fatima Jinnah Girls College also started agitating against handing over the management of their college to the Zindagi Trust. The principal and the teachers of the SMB College, who had remained silent until the protests by teachers of the other two government colleges in September, contested that if the third notification was withdrawn, the second notification could also be withdrawn.

Since then, the Zindagi Trust has been facing stiff resistance from the college staff as several protests were held against them. Contrary to the claims of the college staff, if the SMB school and college are visited, an entirely different picture emerges.

The first obvious change is the school building. The Zindagi Trust and its partners have not only changed the infrastructure but have also made several positive academic changes. They have introduced books currently being taught in premier schools across the city. They have also engaged volunteers from top schools of the city to train school teachers for teaching these new books. Similarly, they have worked hard on maintaining discipline and punctuality among teachers, as the entire staff has to now report on time and their attendance is marked without fear or favour.

During a single year alone, the school has been transformed into a model school that can be compared with the top schools of the city. Facilities installed in the school are modern. There is an advanced computer lab with latest machines and a fulltime network support system. A state of the art library has been built and provided with the best possible collection of books. A dispensary has also been set up, and a full time doctor is employed. Similarly, an attractive art room, a big play ground with basket ball courts, 24-hour security guards and a stand-by power generator to deal with power outages have all been constructed and installed. There is also a modern air conditioned conference room with projector for teachers while comfortable staff rooms have also been built for them. There is also a day care system for teachers where they can drop off their infants without worrying, and can thus concentrate on teaching. Moreover, a professional janitorial staff cleans the entire campus, including bathrooms, classrooms, corridors and school grounds.

In terms of academics, the new school system has fixed the class size at 40 so that each student can be given proper attention. Similarly, for practical classes of grade IX and X, groups of 10 students each have been made so that students can be attended to properly. To ensure that students are enrolled in time for a full academic year, a system of deadlines has also been set. Another significant change to avoid learning by rote is they do not take annual exams from junior classes but take monthly assessments. Given the changes that have taken place in SMB School since it was adopted, the school now promises to be one of the best public schools in the city. These phenomenal changes at a government school inspired many people to adopt the same model of school to other areas of the country. Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif during his visit to the school said that he would replicate the experiment in Punjab. Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza was so inspired with this project that he requested Zindagi Trust and Book Group to launch a project in his home area of Badin. Additionally, the local councillor and town nazim also admitted their children in SMB School after they were convinced that their children's futures would be bright at this school.

'Our teachers would fail us in practical exams'
Karachi: Different groups of students, from the intermediate and degree sections of the college, revealed interesting facts. Students have disclosed that they are been pressurized by their teachers for protesting against Zindagi Trust and Book Group.

A group of three college students from class XI called on Akbar Khan, the supervisor of the project, and told him that they were being pressurized by their teachers. "Our teachers are forcing us to participate in the protest against the trust else they would fail us in practical exams", one of them said.

Another group of four BSc students also visited Khan and asked him to explain why Shehzad Roy abused their teachers. In reply, the students were given a presentation that convinced them that their teachers were encouraging them to protest against Zindagi Trust and Book Group to stop these NGOs from adopting their college.

When asked if college teachers were using students for their personal interests, the principal of the college denied such an impression. She claimed said that Roy was provoking college students against their teachers. She said that Roy bypassed her to forcibly enter a class and provoked the girls to support him for his project. She also said that she doesn't want Roy to interfere in college matters and said they wanted the government to withdraw the notification that allows Zindagi Trust to adopt college management. Regarding allegations placed upon Roy, Akbar Khan said that college teachers provoke and pressurize students against Roy and his project but put all the blame on others.

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International Students' Day today
Karachi: The International Students' Day (ISD) is being celebrated all over the world on Monday (today) with the theme of "Connecting Cultures".

The students, and in many cases foreign universities, take this opportunity to help the international students come together and allow a meaningful interaction among them. In Pakistan, surprisingly, most students and teachers are unaware of such a day and it passes unnoticed.

The International Students' Council (ISC) declared November 17 as the ISD in London in 1941. It was after this declaration that the International Union of Students (IUS) was founded as majority of students realised that they were an important part of society.

The students and teachers of the university or colleges were mostly unaware of the day and expressed their surprise that such a day existed at all. Vice-Chancellor of the Federal Urdu University for Arts, Science & Technology (FUUAST), Dr Muhammad Qaisar, did not know about the day and said that it was surprising that an important day like this passed unobserved by the students and the teachers.

Dr Iftikhar Imam Naqvi, former Dean, Faculty of Science, KU, had heard about the day while he was abroad. He said that the day should be a golden opportunity to cement ties between the teachers and the students. "We are terrified people. Students are afraid of teachers and the teachers are wary of students' behaviour. It is really disgustings."

Dean, Faculty of Science, Dr Shahana Urooj Kazmi, was also oblivious to the presence of such a day but thought it could be a good idea if the university celebrated the day to allow a platform to the students and teachers to come together.

Waqas Kyani, a final year student of the Mass Communication at FUUAST had no knowledge of the day but said that it might have been celebrated if the student unions were functioning in the university. "Students are in a state of uncertainty without the presence of (student) unions. This is the reason common students want to join some student party to have an umbrella on his head". Madiha Ejaz from the Department of Education, KU, said that the university administration was too inert to think of anything except acquiring maximum facilities to them.

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Federal Urdu University VC denies use of Official Secrets Act
Karachi: Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology (FUUAST) Vice Chancellor (VC) Dr Muhammad Qaisar has denied allegations that the university was using the Official Secrets Act (OSA) to conceal facts from the public eye.

The allegations were made after sources revealed that FUUAST Registrar, Qamrul Haque wrote a letter to the deans of faculties and chairpersons of all departments directing them to refrain from providing news to electronic or print media, or any other organisation or person not connected with the university. The registrar had invoked the OSA 1923 section 5 and Code of Conduct for Officials 1964 rule number 18 that forbids providing official documents or information to unauthorised persons.

The issuance of the letters had sent shock waves among students, teachers and the general public who perceived it as a threat to their constitutional rights for free dispensing of information. The general reaction, apart from dismay and anger, was the concern that the university administration was trying to conceal their acts of undoing actions which might be harming the university.

Dr Qaisar said that the reason for issuing such a letter was that teaching and non-teaching staff had made it their habit to write or talk to the media about their grievances, many of them subjective. "Some teachers would go to the offices of certain newspapers and sit there for hours talking about university affairs. Many non-teaching staff would do the same", the VC elaborated.

The registrar lamented the culture of backbiting in the university and was pained that teachers or staff were using the university as a punching bag instead of performing their duties. "Some teachers are fond of interaction with the media for their own projection. The university might not have any objection to their zeal for personal advancement but we object to dragging the university's name into the mire", he explained.

It may be of some interest that some well-wishers of the university, who are well known in the city, have expressed their apprehension that some teachers and staff are in cahoots with those who want to move the university to Islamabad. Towards that end, they are spreading disinformation about the university and are trying to prove that the university was a non-starter as it had not achieved any educational laurels in the last five years.

The Registrar said that irresponsible behaviour of university teachers and staff was against the Senate decision issued in a meeting held in Islamabad on April 10, 2007, according to which only the spokesperson of the university (nominated by the VC) could talk to the media or issue press statements. The decision had stipulated corrective measures against offenders, including departmental action.

A professor associated with the university, on the condition of anonymity, confided that some teachers are demanding that teachers hired after the establishment of the university should be fired and those who were teaching in the Urdu College and have retired, should be rehired. "It seems that most of the teachers have not come out of the college culture and their mindset remains embedded in the college culture. These people are causing irrevocable loss to the university", he elaborated.

The comments from the professor seemed not very far-fetched because many teachers hardly conform to the minimum standards envisaged for a teacher. During an informal talk with a professor who holds a doctoral degree, it came as a surprise when he said, "A teacher's duty is to simply generate knowledge. I am not responsible for the moral aspect". Such a mindset speaks volumes of the standard of the teachers, especially their moral side.

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Greenwich University students perform thriller 'Rope'
Karachi: Amateur actors from the Greenwich University, Karachi, re-enacted Alfred Hitchcock's well-known suspense thriller film "Rope".

The original play, written by Patrick Hamilton, was performed by the students on stage at the Financial Trade Centre (FTC) Auditorium to a crowd of quasi-comrades and other adulators of the cast. Suffice to say much of the crowd had in some way or the other, a link with the Greenwich University.

The performer, Hassan played the guest who was 'dead' on time "David Kentley", who is murdered by his two friends Umer (Brandon Shaw) and Ali Asghar (Phillip Morgan), who share a city apartment. Brandon and Phillip consider themselves intellectually superior to David and thus in an attempt immortalise this fact, they submit to treachery, murdering David aka Hassan.

The organisers had decided to substitute the names of the original characters with the real names of the cast to facilitate the acting perhaps.

Brandon and Phillip strangle David after luring him to their home many hours before the party and then hiding him in an old chest in plain sight. They then proceed to have a small party, the pretext that Phillip is going off into the countryside and that the first edition of Hassan's book is being launched, when in fact it is a celebration for Brandon and Phillip to have rid of their nemesis.

The guests included David's father Hamza (Mr Kently), David's fianc» Insia (Janet Walker), their old teacher Dharaj (Rupert Cadell), the victim's aunt Batool (Mrs Anita Atwater), the rival for Janet's hand, and Janet's former love interest Faraz (Kenenth Lawrence) and the maid Sobia (Mrs Wilson).

Having murdered their associate, Umer and Ali choose to flaunt their arrogance by inviting a group of friends for a party at the scene of crime, serving the edibles from the tabletop of their victim's grave.

As they grow in confidence about the accomplishment of hiding their crime in plain sight. As Umer revels in his achievement, dropping hints, Ali Asghar grows restless as his guilt burns through his throat. Dharaj catches on and plays the cat and mouse game with Umer to uncover the mystery of the missing guest.

Played out in two acts, the original plot is a nail biting, on-the-edge-of-the-seat thriller the play was the just opposed. From the immense restraint shown by the actors on stage the audience threw fits laughter in the second act as Ali grew restless, frightened with the prospect of Dharaj discovering the perfect murder of Hassan. However it was more of the guilt within both Umer and Ali that bubbled out in revealing the crime as the attempts by Dharaj to unearth the crime were rather tame. The News

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