HI-TECH EDUCATION TO SPECIAL PERSONS

IT IS SURPRISING TO SEE BLIND STUDENTS SENDING AND RECEIVING EMAILS AT GCU.

KANWAL SALEEM
Nov 09 - 15, 2009

The city of Lahore is known for its rich cultural traditions as well as high standard of educational institutions such as Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), Government College University, Punjab Group of Colleges, Aitcheson College, F.C. College, Lahore School of Economics, Beacon house, Punjab Group of Colleges and hundreds of others.

When Pakistan was founded in 1947 as a result of the partition with India, the country had only one institution of higher education, University of the Punjab. Over the next 20 years, many private and public schools and higher education institutions were established to help fuel the country's socio-economic development. In the early 1970s, all of Pakistan's educational institutions were nationalized under the government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

For the next decade, Pakistan's entire system of education was state-run. However, the growing demand for higher education increased the demand of new public universities. During that period, the system could accommodate only 25 percent of the high school graduates who applied to higher education institutions.

In 1979 a government commission reviewed the consequences of nationalization and concluded that in view of the poor participation rates at all levels of education, the public sector could no longer be the country's sole provider of education. By the mid-1980s, private educational institutions were allowed to operate on the condition that they would comply with government-recognized standards.

Until 1991, there were only two recognized private universities in Pakistan: Aga Khan University established in 1983; and Lahore University of Management Sciences established in 1985. By 1997, however, there were 10 private universities and in 2001-2002, this number had doubled to 20.

In 2003-04, Pakistan had a total of 53 degree granting institutions in private sector. The rapid expansion of private higher education is even more remarkable if we look at the number of institutions established every year.

In 1997, for instance, three private institutions were established; in 2001 11 new private institutions were opened; and in 2008 around 40 private sector institutions sprung up.

Government College University (GCU) Lahore is considered to be one of the most majestic and gorgeous buildings in the sub-continent. Built during the colonial era, the architectural style, known to be the Celestial Gothic, is best suited the academic building.

A spokesman of GCU told Pakistan and Gulf Economist (PAGE) that GCU is a co-educational public university, and was granted the status of university by the government in 2002. The university offers Bachelor's, Master's and PhD degrees in a variety of disciplines. The university currently has more than 6,000 students and 323 faculty members. Alumni of GCU are called Ravians after the nearby Ravi River.

According to him, GCU as a college is older than any other college or university in Pakistan. Under the British Raj the college was opened on January 1, 1864, in a portion of the Palace of Raja Dhyan Singh Haveli. The institution was affiliated with the University of Calcutta for examination. Along with the establishment of the college, Gottlied Wilhelm Leitner (professor of Arabic and Mohammedan Law at King's College in London) was nominated as principal of college. He later was instrumental in the foundation of Punjab University, Lahore in 1882. The first class consisted of 9 students, all of whom matriculated from Calcutta University. In April 1871, the college moved to its present site. In 1996, it received autonomous status and on September 9, 2002, it became a university.

According to the spokesperson, the Torch, as the crest of University emblem, symbolizes the light of knowledge that this unique institution has been giving to generations since its inception. The motto "Courage to Know" represents the guiding principle of the student community. It is intended to develop courage among the students to realize their academic potential.

Successful people from all walks of life including Allama Muhammad Iqbal, Dr. Hargobind Khorana, Dr. Abdul Salam, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Patras Bukhari, Muhammad Hussain Azad, Sufi Tabassum and many others great personalities had their association with GCU, which has been providing quality education for the last 145 years and would maintain its credibility as the best knowledge spreading institute.

GCU has the main hall (now called Dr. Abdus Salam Hall), postgraduate block, Bokhari auditorium (named after Patras Bokhari), chemistry block, and science block. GCU is comprised of faculties, centers and teaching departments such as Centers Chairs, Institutes Postgraduate Departments Schools Undergraduate Departments, and Center for Advanced Studies in Physics (CASP).

Talking about High Tension Laboratory (now CASP), he said it was established in 1954 by Dr. Rafi Muhammad Chaudhry to carry out experimental research in Atomic and Nuclear Physics. The CASP also offers M.Sc. in telecommunications and also B.Sc engineering in electronics & telecommunications, a four-year degree programme.

Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC) has also established the National Centre for Mathematics (NCM) at the GC University for the advancement of mathematical sciences in Pakistan and to develop indigenous human resources and research capability in the field of mathematics, he said.

THE GCU'S HUMAN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT

Center arranges refresher courses for the faculty on different academic and administrative topics. He further said the GCU had a very proactive and ambitious physics facility, which is known as Salam Chair in Physics. This facility was named after noted theoretical physicist Dr. Abdus Salam.

The facility became operational in March 2000, and has initiated a number of academic programmes aimed at promoting activity in physics.

Some of its important achievements include 52 research publications in international journals, producing of three PhDs and nine M.Phil theses, establishment of plasma technology lab, and contracting handsome research grants from various funding agencies and research centre e.g. the Slam International Centre of Theoretical Physics (Italy), PAEC, KRL, PSF, and PCST.

According to Prof. Dr. Khalid Aftab, Vice-Chancellor GCU, students of GCU are different from others in terms of their tolerance, behavior, decency and conduct. The GCU provides freedom of expression, all kinds of curricular and co-curricular activities and congenial learning environment to the students so that they equip themselves with all the norms of academia to a certain degree.

He said that open dialogue & tolerance were imbued in students during their educational studies so that they could emerge as successful persons in every sphere of life. He said that we had qualified and experienced faculty, modern and latest educational facilities and a friendly and peaceful environment for the students of GCU.

Prof. Dr. Khalid Aftab believes that well cultured person is an asset for the society, country, and his family, and the GCU always puts strenuous efforts for promoting the students in a cultured way. According to him, education plays pivotal role in nation building and students need to focus on their respective disciplines. GCU has excellent traditions while a Ravian spirit is the spirit of enlightenment.

Currently, as many as 23 blind students are studying at the GCU from the intermediate to masters classes and the Centre for Special Children (CSS) of GCU has digitalized curriculum and pleasure-reading books for their blind students besides printing them in Braille. This is welcoming news for blind students who can now memorize these books for their examination by listening to them through computer.

"Now they don't need any special help of other students," Zia Aslam, one of the blind students of GCU who earned 2nd position in Punjab in matriculation exam told this scribe. Zia Aslam was also given cash prize of Rs 300,000 by the Punjab Chief Minister along with other special children who got positions in the matriculation exam. Zia Aslam is of the view that all universities of Pakistan should have such centers, which enable blind students to lead an exemplary and honorable life.

The CSS of GCU has digitalized their almost all curriculum books and now they can prepare for their examination just with the help of a computer, said an instructor Salman Khalid, who is MA English from GCU and also visually challenged.

The centre has also started facilitating the GCU blind students in taking their exams. The centre familiarizes them with computer usage through screen reading software, so that they can solve their papers on the computer. The centre also has six Perkins Braille machines for those blind students who do not want to take exams on computer.

It may be noted that the GCU is the only university of Pakistan that has centre for special children and is offering such kind of high-tech facilities to the blind students.

Extensive funds are allocated to provide maximum facilities to the special children. The centre has recently imported an expensive Braille Embosser, which can print any digitalized material in Braille. The centre has about 20 high-tech computers which can easily run heavy screen reading software. The centre surprises its visitors when they see blind students sending and receiving emails, chatting and browsing without any help. The centre also has a six volume English to Urdu Braille dictionary for its blind students.

ACCA HIGH ACHIEVERS CEREMONY 2009

ACCA Pakistan organised its first High Achievers Ceremony on Tuesday, 3 November 09 in Karachi to appreciate the achievement of 6 global and 16 national High Achievers from the Sindh region who scored highest marks in the CAT and ACCA examinations held in December 2008 and June 2009 sessions.

Mr Nisar Khuhro, Speaker of Provincial Assembly - Sindh, graced the occasion as the Chief Guest and presented certificates and cash prizes to the high fliers. Mr Khuhro congratulated the high achievers for their hard work and said, "Education has always been an issue for Pakistan and these high achievers are lucky to have the opportunity to afford education as its not available to everyone. These gifted young minds will go on to become great accountants in the future. Accountants add considerable value to business by driving down costs and identifying drivers of value and profitability - and never more so than in the current environment. They are instrumental in obtaining access to finance and strengthening the balance sheet."

On the occasion, Mr Arif Masud Mirza, Head of ACCA Pakistan, congratulated the awardees, their families and teachers for the brilliant performance of High Achievers in the region. He said, "For over a decade now, ACCA Pakistan has represented opportunity for talented and committed professionals, irrespective of background and location. The prestige and value of the ACCA Qualification comes from demonstrating how you can apply the high level of technical knowledge and skill you have gained in the workplace. It is this ability that employers invest in and truly value."

Rida e Zehra Jafri, one of the high achievers shared her views that ACCA exams are no doubt difficult but all the high achievers present had proved it's not impossible to attain great results. On behalf of the students and high achievers, Rida thanked teachers, parents and ACCA management for their unwavering support during the course of their studies and especially while preparing for the examinations.