Dignity of Education

Moscow State University

Dignity Definition

My assignment in OGDC, besides planning and undertaking civil engineering works in all oil field and exploration wells, was also to provide residential facilities to expatriates. Most of the drilling rigs during those days were of Russian origin except for a handful of American rigs which were lately added in oilfield company’s inventory. There were about a dozen Russian expatriates who were living with their families in rented houses in Karachi.  Dr. Shahzad Sadiq called me one day in his office and introduced me to a delegation that had come from Russian consulate.

Moscow State University Professor

“A professor of geology from Moscow State University in Russian is scheduled to visit our oilfields.  He along with his entourage of five people would be staying in Karachi for about two weeks. We have to arrange accommodation for him and his team, befitting to his stature as he enjoys the status of a minister.”

Preparation for Moscow State University Professor

Dr. Shahzad directed me to ensure that the team was properly looked after by us. He also told me that a person from Russian consulate would be coordinating with me in this regard. This was my first important assignment given to me directly by the chairman, and so I thought that I had to do my best to prove my mettle. At the same time, I was puzzled at the protocol being given to a geology professor. 

Moscow State University is one of top universities in Russia

Professors of my University

I recalled our professors in Sindh university and their status in our society.  Some of these professors didn’t even have their own transport and would commute between Hyderabad and Jamshoro through bus shuttle service.  The students would not even care to offer them a seat in the bus. And here in Russia, a professor being accorded the status of a minister, was something which was not easy for me to digest so quickly.  However, I started looking for a house and shortlisted a couple of these houses which I showed to the Russian coordinator who did not consider these houses fit for their professor. 

Moscow State University Professor Accommodation

Eventually I was able to get hold of a huge house for Moscow State University Professor. It was on main sunset boulevard road of defense housing authority which had six bedrooms and was newly built with imported fittings and fixtures. The coordinator approved the house and the company had to pay hefty amount in the shape of rental for a period of one year. To furnish such a huge house was also not easy as the coordinator was very choosy and would only accept the best, and I was under the instructions of chairman to follow his advice.

Foreign Office Islamabad

On the day the professor was to arrive, Pakistan foreign office Islamabad had made all arrangements for the protocol and security of professor. A car with a Russian flag was driven up to the tarmac of airport and the professor was received by a Russian diplomat of their consulate in Karachi. The amount of respect being given to a professor to a level of a minister, was unusual for me and unheard of, in our society.  I was therefore mindful of his tour. His tour programme to visit oilfield was also meticulously drawn. At two places a helicopter was arranged by Foreign office Islamabad and russian embassy to take him to Toot oilfield from Islamabad, and to Dhodhak condensate field from Multan airport.

Thano Bula Khan Gas Field

Shortly after this tour, I got an opportunity to visit Sari and Hundi gas fields in Thano Bula Khan area, at a distance of about 70 km from Karachi. Sari and Hundi are two small villages in the outskirts of Thano Bulla Khan. Sari started producing gas in 1965. Since then, a number of wells have been drilled there, yielding good quality gas which is connected with the national grid of gas pipelines, and which supplies gas to Karachi and all other parts of the country.

Hundi Gas Field

Hundi gas field also started producing gas in 1970. In order to maintain these gas fields, a full-fledged team of professionals was permanently stationed in that area. My visit to these gas fields was in connection with the civil engineering works required to be undertaken there, including expansion of housing units, maintenance of roads, water pipelines and installations at well sites.

Visiting Thano Bula Khan after decades

During my visit to this place, I had a nostalgic feeling. I was just about four years old or a few months above, and which means I am referring to the year 1953 when my father was posted as mahalkaar in Thano Bula Khan, as an officer in-charge, by Govt of Sindh to look after the administrative matters of the area. It was this very place where I had the first lessons of my education.  At times I am surprised at myself as to how can I vividly recall those days at such a tender age, as this episode of my initial learning was as fresh and crystal clear in my mind as if it was yesterday, a place where I had learnt to hold a pen (a chalk) and to write on a black slate.

I may have forgotten the names of many, whom I met during the last six months, but I simply cannot forget the name of Muhammad Jaffar who was my first teacher.  Having come here after many years I was inquisitive whether my teacher was still alive and whether I will have the privilege to meet him again. I expressed my desire to my hosts, and I was delighted to know from a local of the area that Muhammad Jaffer was alive and that if I wanted to meet him, it could be arranged. I told him that since he was my teacher, I would rather like to go to him instead of calling him in my camp.

Meeting my first teacher of life

By virtue of my curiosity to meet the first teacher of my life, I happened to have a glimpse of that small town of Thano Bola Khan and its shahi bazaar (local name given to a central market). After crossing over the entire bazaar, which was not too big and wore a deserted look, my hosts stopped in front of a small teashop and called my teacher by his name. An old man in tattered clothes sitting in a remote corner of the shop, stood up with a frightened look and trembling legs. I knelt down to touch his almost bare feet as a mark of respect. I didn’t know what thought process must have been going on in his mind after looking at our entourage which also included a couple of uniformed security staff, but surely, he was scared to death.

“It is a privilege and an honour for me that I have been able to meet you today. I was yearning for this day to have a glimpse of yours. You were the first teacher of my life who had taught me how to hold a pencil or a pen. I was merely four years old and my father was posted here as mahalkar in the year 1953.”

Happy to meet my first teacher

He listened to me with his mouth wide open, not knowing anything of what was happening. The first thought that came to my mind was to offer him some financial help, and I took out my wallet. But then sanity prevailed and I thought that it would be disgraceful for my teacher to receive money in front of the local crowd, which had gathered around us in amazement. I told him that I was happy to meet him and that I held him in highest esteem as my teacher.

Back in the camp, I requested my hosts to look after this poor old man in whatever way they deemed appropriate.  Later on, I was told that he had one son who was called and offered a small job earmarked for locals of the area. With this little favour, the financial condition of the family of my teacher was considerably improved. 

Comparison of Russian teachers with our teacher

What an anticlimax of a treatment to our educators versus the Russian professor. The sad plight of affairs occupied my mind with gloom for many months. I recalled my early days when I was in class four and studying in government high School Dadu.  My teacher Mr. Dhani Bux Memon was a dedicated man and I was his favourite student. During those days, an open competition of class four students was held each year at district level, and the top ten students were given monthly stipends as scholarships which would continue till matriculation.

Teachers Dignified Definition

My teacher was optimistic and he said to me that if I prepared myself for this examination, he would put in extra time to enable me to get ready for the test. After normal school hours, he would call me at his house and would teach me without any charge or tuition fee for the extra time he spent on me. Such was the dedication and commitment of teachers of those days which can rarely be seen now. Resultantly I secured second position in the entire district. I was proud of my teacher and at the same time I was happy that my teacher was also satisfied with my performance.

Old teacher visits my office

Many decades later when I was in port Qasim, I saw him in the corridor of my office. I was so astonished and excited to see him that I ran after him and with full respect and honour, I requested him to grace my office by his presence.  He told me that he had come to the port to meet one of his relatives. On my insistence he stayed in my office for a couple of hours during which time I proudly introduced him to my office staff and my colleagues and told them that if I was here in this office today, it was because I had teachers like him.

Our old teacher in village

That reminds me of the quality of education in our village and the stories narrated by my father about his illustrious teachers. The last few days of my father were symbolic in this regard. He was admitted in the intense care unit (ICU) of a hospital. His vital organs were malfunctioning in spite of all efforts put in by doctors. Hemoglobin had dropped to dangerous level requiring frequent blood transfusions which also resulted in dementia and memory loss. During those last days of his life when he would not even recognize us, he would often talk about his childhood teacher Dhaloo Mal, a Hindu teacher of his village.

Dignity of teachers in old times

He would tell us about commitment and dedication of his teacher with his students, which was exemplary to the extent that he loved his students more than their parents. My father would recall that after partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, all relatives of Dhaloo Mal were getting ready to leave the village for good, he had refused to go but then finally he succumbed to the desire of his fellow Hindus. My father would tell all this to us with tears in his eyes, that when Dhaloo Mal was finally leaving the village, the entire village was wailing and crying, and so was the condition of Dhaloo Mal.

Contribution of Muslim Scholars

Muslim scholars contributed immensely in early Islamic days. They took the cue from the fact that Islam laid emphasis on learning, more than on anything else. The first divine message sent by the Omnipotent to His prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), was “IQRA” which means “Read”. The Abbasid period which started with the caliphate from the dynasty of Hazrat Abbas bin Abdul Muttalib, witnessed the pinnacle of research and development in the field of science and technology. I will not go into more details of it and will suffice to mention just a few heavy weights that acquired name and fame in that golden era.

Muslim Scientists

Ibne Sina is described as the father of early modern medicine. Jabir bin Hayyan contributed largely in the field of chemistry and astronomy. Al-Biruni and Al-Khwarizmi are regarded as the greatest scholars of medieval Islamic era, with their valuable contribution in physics, mathematics and astronomy. And the list is endless. As long as Muslims followed the divine commandments, they were the leaders of the world. But then they took the back seat and western world started from where the Muslim scholars had left. Today we see that the west has done tremendous work in the field of education and are resultantly on top of the world. We forgot lessons of our forefathers and did not pay due respect and regard to education, and the westerners chose to follow the footsteps of our forefathers.

Story of Ashfaq Ahmad

There is an interesting story narrated by Ashfaq Ahmad, a renowned literary figurehead, a reformer and an educationist. Ashfaq Ahmad was issued a challan by traffic police in France for violating traffic signal light. He was produced before court and the Judge sought his explanation. Ashfaq Ahmad told him that his student sitting beside him in the car asked him a question and while replying to him, he did not notice the light having turned from green to red.

“Are you a teacher?”

The Judge interrupted him and enquired from him about his professional affiliation, to which he replied in affirmative.  The Judge stood up and announced:

“Everyone in the court may stand up. There is a teacher in this courtroom”. 

Ashfaq Ahmad in Court

The amount of respect shown by the Judge was indicative of the importance of education and that of a teacher.  No wonder, western countries have progressed leaving behind all others in general, and Islamic countries in particular, as we forgot the secret of rising to the top, as adopted by our ancient Islamic scholars and the west cashed on that recipe. Let us look at ourselves and see as to what status we accord to our teachers. Probably they are the weakest segment, both in terms of their financial stability and social status given to them in our society. 

None of us would like our children to adopt the noble profession of education and, therefore, those people who are unable to seek the profession of their choice, turn towards education as a last resort. With this aspect in hindsight, one can well imagine their intellectual capacity to teach others when they were not able to even teach themselves.

Dignity Definition

Moscow State University

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