Strength and determination: An interview by Varda Nisar

Raees Fatima

Raees Fatima: Continuing with her crusade

There are very few people in this world who know what is their calling, and it is in these rare people that we find a determination that doesn’t stop them ever from doing what they think right. Raees Fatima is one of them. Her love for Urdu is still strong and growing. Not only is she a well-known educationist but also a columnist and an author of six books in Urdu.

Getting her early education from Karachi, it wasn’t by chance that she fell upon this great love for Urdu. “I always knew that I wanted to be an Urdu professor, as I had always been interested in writing. Since an early age, I was exposed to Urdu literature and reading. I was always writing for my college newspapers and that love is still strong.”

Her education career covers almost four decades and she has left her mark in many of the colleges of Karachi, which include Jamia Millia, Saudabad College, where she taught for 12 years to then finally retire from Nazimabad College.

“I have never been able to deal with the corruption that exists so blatantly in our education system. I retired early because I could never lie about my age as many of my colleagues had done. Many of my older colleagues are still teaching at that college.”

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many things about the system which she was a part of that greatly agitate her. “When you construct a building and its basic structure is weak, you can never expect the building to stand on its own for long. That is the tragedy of our education system.”

She shows her displeasure on not only the coaching system that seems to be booming in the country but also the cheating mafia. “It is such a different situation now. Even a matriculate during my father’s time could speak better English and Urdu but now the education standards have stooped so low that you can’t expect the same from even a college student.”

Strongly against the coaching system, she says that she has always built a case against this latest trend. “Most of the professors don’t even bother teaching in the colleges anymore and I have seen that happening myself. They would be guaranteeing positions for the students that are taking classes in their college. How can we expect the system to work when this is the footing that we are building for the future of our youth.”
Many of her experiences during her long career have tested her patience but she has always gone on to do the right thing. “Many a time when we would go for invigilation, the word would already have been spread and the students and the teacher would be careful and discreet in their ways. And all this was happening with the help of the college administration. How can you then expect to produce any future scholars in this country?”

The spread of political parties within the education system is also one more nuisance that the teachers and government schools and colleges now have to deal with. “Most of the time you would find that the students are trying to intimate you by informing you their alliance with so-and-so party.”

So what should be the solution? “Political activities should be banned completely from the institutes.” But considering the wide-spread thinking that

student politics should be promoted in universities and colleges, which once also worked very efficiently in the country, isn’t this a complete 180-degrees turn on that. “Back then, the political parties were not associated with university politics. That has not been the scene in the last 20 years and more. And the mess that it has dragged into the educational institutes cannot be erased in a few years. Till that time they should be banned.”

But how does one deal with the fact when the language that is their life is being treated as a second-class thing? What about the future of Urdu in a country where the number of admissions in such departments are slowly falling in number?

“It is a very sad situation. Most of the time you would find that the people in these departments are only there for time pass, until they get married. As for Urdu literature, we desperately need new people. Even in colleges you would find no one coming up to contribute for the magazines, and the situation is especially bad for the boys. It seems that this generation just doesn’t read or have any interest in reading.”

She strongly holds the view that we need serious reforms in education. “It is amusing to note that I was teaching the same course to my students that I had studied myself in college. I have made many suggestions to the Education Board myself about it but it never seems to make an impact.”

But what about the prejudice being faced by Urdu literature? “It is very strange when you see that most of the writers, since my youth, had been shunned and we were thoroughly discouraged from reading them. Like the likes of Manto. I was never allowed by my family to read him though they encouraged education a lot. Even in our colleges and universities, only when an individual is quite mature do they promote these writers who have done nothing more than to write the truth about how society really is.”

Her crusade hasn’t stopped and she still concentrates on educating society through her columns and books.

(Orignally published in Dawn Newspaper, http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/in-paper-magazine/education/strength-and-determination-119)

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