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Karachi

July 31, 2018
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Kati Pahari Girls College – a picture of official neglect

Karachi

July 31, 2018

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As a mid-May heatwave lashed the city, putting residents on edge, sisters Nahid and Sarwat sit patiently inside the principal’s office in Government Degree Girls College Kati Pahari waiting for students to show up.

The clock strikes noon, yet still no sign of even a single student. An hour later as the academic day comes to an end they begin a conversation with the college principal, Nayyar Sultana.

Students didn’t attend classes because of the heatwave, they tell her, but because there are no teachers at the college. Sultana suggests that they individually reach out to parents to convince them to send their daughters regularly to college. She then sees them off for the day.

Although on paper, the Kati Pahari College is a fully-functional establishment with three blocks for arts, science and commerce faculties, a principal, a staff of 11 administrative employees and an average yearly enrolment of 40-50 students, in reality, it is nothing short of a ghost college with its classrooms, library, computer lab, conference hall and open ground devoid of students. Its empty halls present an eerie picture of years of official neglect.

Kati Pahari has remained the city’s most trouble-plagued area since 2008-9. Because of this, teachers appointed to the college by the education department have been reluctant to join. With no teachers around, students have also chosen to stay away.

Nahid and Sarwat, who are graduates of Karachi University, have been teaching voluntarily at the college since 2013. “When the locality observed a series of violent incidents back in 2012-13 imposed by the two rival political groups on ethnic grounds, the teachers belonging to other parts of the city refused to teach in the college,” Nahid told The News in an interview.

Perturbed by the lack of teachers, Nahid and Sarwat approached the education department and offered their services free of charge. “We have been teaching here for the last five years with the aim to educate girls in the locality,” said Nahid.

According to her, many students enrolled at the college have left their studies half-way because of the lack of teachers. The sisters are trying to bring them back. “We expect nothing from our students. We only want to help them out in completing their studies,” Nahid said.

The vicinity is predominantly home to semi-educated or uneducated conservative families who do not support girls’ education. Even the college gatekeeper, who lives with his family on the premises, refuses to let his daughter study there.

Nahid said she and her sister had initiated a door-to-door campaign once the law and order had improved, visiting families and urging them to enrol their daughters in the college. “We explained to them that if they ever needed a lady doctor to treat women, then where would they find one if they don’t educate their girls and let them study further to become doctors or nurses,” she said, adding that the strategy worked and many parents were on board to enrol their daughters.

Yet, attendance has still been minimal. The sisters continue to personally reach out to parents to convince them to send their daughters to college.

Gradual change

The college building was completed in 2008 and the education department appointed the only teacher then – Professor Rukhsana Shakir who was the principal. Appointments for subject-wise teachers were never made and the college continued to function like that for years. In 2017, Shakir retired and was replaced with Sultana who took charge in April this year.

“I knew the peace situation in the area but being a responsible government servant, I accepted the challenge and joined the college,” said Nayyar.

She further said that the regional director colleges had recently appointed two teachers, Rehana Siddiqui and Asma Anjum. They were hesitant initially but have decided to join the college after summer vacations.

“We need around 20 to 25 teachers to make the college fully functional and ensure attendance of students,” she said.

The principal lamented that although some male teachers had expressed interest in joining the college, the regional director colleges had refused because of the Supreme Court’s orders that bar the appointment of male teachers in girls’ colleges.

However, a number of male clerks, office assistants, lab assistants and gatekeepers have been appointed in girls’ colleges, she pointed out.

Enrolment

This ongoing academic year, 58 girls have secured admissions in Commerce and Arts sections. Of these, 36 are enrolled in Commerce Part-I and nine in Part-II, while six are enrolled in Arts Part-I and seven in Part-II.

However, because of the shortage of teachers, degree classes have not yet commenced and hence the students do not attend college regularly. Principal Sultana hopes that with help of her two volunteer teachers, she will arrange regular classes as well as degree classes for newcomers soon.

According to the principal, apart from teacher shortage, the college also faces other issues. Gutters nearby have been overflowing causing the accumulation of sewage water in the college’s backyard. Moreover, garbage dumped along the road leading to the college has also created a problem for students intending to come. “There is also no water connection, sanitation and toilets in the college,” she said.

When The News contacted Regional Director Colleges Mashooq Baloch, he claimed that the College Education department has introduced Rationalization of Teachers (RoT), a plan for newly-appointed teachers who will be sent to those colleges where positions are vacant.

He admitted that there is a shortage of college teachers in Karachi region and said suggestions have been made to the Sindh Public Commission to recruit more teachers so that the vacant positions can be filled.

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