September 10, 2008

Suggestions for project options - Javed Jabbar


The following email was received from Javed Jabbar of the Class of 1961.


Dear Zaffar & fellow Publicans,




Thank you for your valuable and continued interest in further developing the elements agreed upon in our first planning meeting held on Saturday, 7th June 2008, to concretize projects or activities that can best benefit the deserving and the disadvantaged in the context of education on the 50th anniversary of Public School - and in the years ahead.


With reference to the survey form, I submit/support the following 11 suggestions:


1. A Physical Symbol:


To begin with, the least beneficial but an unavoidable token: the design and construction of an obelisk to be placed at some point on the campus of our original premises to mark the 50th anniversary. Such an obelisk could be a small-scale reproduction of the original structure of our School with that unforgettable dome. If we can retrieve the original architectural drawings: fine. Otherwise, based on an accurate brief by us, an architect/model-maker can be briefed/guided on how best to recreate a miniature version. Then, encase it in glass and place it in a safe place where some archaeologist can dig it up a couple of centuries from now. But something physical that marks the spot where our School stood - and marks the event of our celebration.


2. Focus on the Successor Schools to our Original School:


As a fundamental principle : all our financial support and our project activity should be focused on the successor schools, boys and girls, primary, secondary etc. that have been created on the campus of our original School. Despite all the changes i.e. no longer co-educational, no longer a single school etc, the first right to benefit from our collective efforts belongs to these schools that currently function in the very place where we became Publicans.


3. One-off and Recurring:


The third principle comprises of two parts:

(a) One part of our support should be of a one-off kind of activity e.g. an obelisk, etc.

(b) The other part of our support should be recurring support e.g. regular or annual, etc. for at least the next 5 years.


4. Honour Our Teachers:


The fourth principle should be that, wherever required and appropriate, we provide financial support/awards to our former teachers (some of them ailing and in need of support but which they may never ask for) as well as support to deserving teachers and staff of the existing successor schools. This latter part is a tough nut to crack i.e. there is a need to devise a set of criteria which is fair and restricted to a few, without being discriminatory. But, as a principle, we do owe it to teachers past and present who are generally under-rewarded for their contribution.


5. Encourage Original Writing & Speaking by Students:


In the age of deteriorated language proficiency and writing skills as also of sustained and substantive analytical thinking as opposed to emotive thinking and opinion-flaunting, we should sponsor an annual campaign/competition to recognize and reward the capacity of students in our successor schools to think, write and speak individually, originally and spontaneously but with reflection and deliberation.


Thus, instead of announcing a subject for a short essay in advance or announcing the subject of a declamation or debate in advance of the event, on a given day, in each school, a choice of subjects for writing an essay, say of 600 to 700 words should be announced on the spot about 15 minutes before the writing session begins. Students will be required to use their own minds and experiences to express themselves and not get texts ghost-written by parents, teachers, elders etc. as often happens with pre-announced subjects of essays and debates.


Similarly, for declamation/debates in Urdu and English, the choice of subjects will be announced 15 minutes to 30 minutes before the commencement of proceedings. Students will not be allowed to consult with teachers, parents etc. They will then be asked to express their views on a given subject instead of reciting texts learnt by rote.


Both for the written competition and the speaking competition, volunteer Publicans can be the judges. Such competitions can be titled: "The Publican Prize/s for Original Writing" and "The Publicans Prize/s for Self-expression".


6. The Publicans Volunteer Visiting Teachers Programme:


The suggestion for a sixth principle that should shape our effort to support education requires Publicans to give time rather than money, and time, as we know, is far more valuable than rupees!


In view of the extraordinary range of professional excellence in diverse sectors that Publicans have achieved in the past 50 years, we have a rich reservoir of knowledge and experience that can guide students in the successor schools of Public School.


Under a well-planned programme co-ordinated with the Directorate and the Principals of the 5 schools, willing Publicans should volunteer their time e.g. one hour in 7 days, or one hour in every 14 days or one hour every month, to visit one class or a combination of classes, to impart to the students those elements of their experience which are relevant for them to learn at their age, and at their stage of growth.


Those Publicans who are, in their own opinion, or in the opinion of others, possessed of adequate communication and motivational skills should particularly volunteer/be requested to contribute their time and effort.


Accustomed as I am to being optimistic about my own humble capacity, I volunteer to be a Visiting Teacher whenever I am present in Karachi and in Pakistan.


I am willing to give a minimum of 4 hours each month i.e. one hour per week, or a minimum of 4 hours per month.


Publicans can provide valuable guidance to students in how best to learn, how to develop analytical thinking and expression, how to plan career development, how to determine important choices that they can make at stages that could affect their present, and their future.


From sports to banking to engineering to commerce to medicine to the civil services to the defence forces to media to diplomacy to fashion design : Publicans have excelled in virtually every subject under the sun - and the moon!


We should share our wealth of experience with students in a systematic and sustained way.


This project could be called: "The Publicans Volunteer Visiting Teachers Programme".


7. Scholarships:


There could be two categories:


(i) To recognize and support meritorious students whose family income is verifiably below a level that, in the view of Publicans, is necessary to ensure a reasonable quality of life by which the student can realize his/her own potential.


(ii) To support the higher level studies of present students in the successor schools in 4 or 5 institutions of excellence at the graduate/post-graduate levels in Pakistan in: Social Sciences/Arts, Physical Sciences, Business Administration, or Sports-related training.


8. Infrastructure in Successor Schools:


Our brief visit to the toilets in one school about two weeks ago gave us all a graphic idea of how badly the basic needs of maintenance and cleanliness remain un-attended.


However, this is the responsibility of the Directorate and the School administrations. Should we assume the task that others should render as their duty?


Instead: another suggestion:


9. Publicans as benevolent, constructive Monitors of basic facilities in the Successor Schools:


Without becoming a nuisance, some Publicans could take responsibility for regularly monitoring infrastructure conditions and remind/request/harass those responsible to take required action.


10. A part-time or full-time (paid) Co-ordinator:


Even as we continue our voluntary contributions, and even as we may establish a new, formal association, we definitely need a person to concentrate on the several, physical, mundane but essential tasks of making sure that decisions are followed up by action, that others are reminded of commitments and duties they have assumed, that procedural and mechanical details are taken care of.


A modest part of the funds we collect should go to recruiting or to paying a member of the staff of one of the Publicans'-led/owned organizations to serve as a part-time or full-time Co-ordinator for all the project activities.


Just making a schedule for, say, the Publicans Volunteer Visiting Teachers Programme will require considerable co-ordination between Principals, regular teachers and the volunteer teachers which only a paid Co-ordinator could render efficiently.


11. A list of Publicans names plus titles, 2-3 lines bio-note:


In conclusion, in order to do justice to our work in general and to the above in particular, we need for one of us to compile a list of names of Publicans who have made notable contribution in various fields.


This is without the under-estimating the value of the work done by anonymous Publicans who are not publicly known but who have done well in their private lives: and who also have a treasure of experience to impart to young generations.


A compilation of this list on a batch-wise basis will immediately illustrate the enormous range of in-puts that we could provide to present students - without a single rupee being spent!


Thank you for your attention.


With best wishes,

Javed Jabbar