December 19, 2009
Fourth Lecture in the Distinguished Publicans Lecture Series
The sixth programme of the Publican Alumni Trust (PAT) Educational Initiatives Programme was the fourth lecture in the Distinguished Publicans Lecture Series. The lecture was delivered by our esteemed former teacher Mrs. Durre Shamim Rafi, fondly remembered as Ms. Musharrif. The topic of the lecture was “Learning & Teaching”.
Video of the lecture is available broken into 5 parts. To go to any video, please click on the thumbnail below.
Pictures of the event as well as a report on the proceedings by Javed Jabbar are posted below. To view these pictures, click on one of the Library Buttons below.
Report by Javed Jabbar
Dear fellow Publicans,
Salaams and greetings.
1. On 19th December 2009 from about 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the F.G. Minwalla Girls’ Public School auditorium, our dear former senior teacher, formerly known and respected as Ms. Musharrif whose family name is Mrs. Durre Shameem Rafi rendered a memorable lecture on: “Learning and Teaching” to about 200 students (about 100 girls, 100 boys of Classes 8, 9 & 10) and about 25 alumni and present Principals and teachers.
2. Speaking in both chaste Urdu and excellent English, Ms. Musharrif spoke with a rich resonance and sincerity to move our hearts and to inspire minds, regardless of age and gender.
3. On the one hand, for us alumni, she evoked vivid memories of her being a focal point of our attention and admiration in the School. For today’s students, as evident in their applause and in the questions and comments that followed afterwards, she became for them as well, a role model worth emulation.
4. Based on my notes, herewith are excerpts from her observations.
Ms. Musharrif said that learning must always help take us forward into the future and not let us remain trapped in ignorance or prejudice. Being unduly modest, she said that the credit for her success goes to her former students.
5. Recalling how she began her career in teaching, she confided that she actually wanted to become a PIA airhostess. But neither father nor family in those days of the late 1950s would countenance such a job. So, intending to spend just about 3 months of summer doing “something else” before deciding on an alternative career, and wanting to earn some extra pocket money, she appeared for an interview at the just-opened new Public School in 1958-59, before a large board of interviewers and was promptly offered the job of an Assistant English Teacher.
6. She said that the irony of life is that you start wanting to do one thing, and end up doing something quite different.
7. In this case, she said she has no regrets. Because the job of teaching became like glue, binding her for over 2 decades to Public School.
8. Ms. Musharrif said that it is apt to recall that: “a journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step”.
9. At the start of the learning process, our conscience is, and should remain, our most important guardian. It is this awareness of doing what is right that helps us eventually in life to become change-makers.
10. She said: look at our alumni. They are all change-makers in diverse fields.
11. Neither teaching nor learning begins or ends in school. The whole world, and all of life, is a school.
12. With reference to the impact of media, particularly foreign media from other South Asian countries, she regretted that we were allowing our rich culture and language to be adversely affected by foreign culture rather than preserving our own mores.
13. Condemning the high levels of violence, conflict and hate in society at large and as seen in the media, she said that not all the courses of study offered by the “School of Life” are worth studying.
14. Yet we should not despair because there are also other courses and instances: of humanity, respect and affection.
15. She asked: who will teach us to choose love over hate, humanity over inhumanity, compassion over indifference? She reminded students that they are not helpless children but that it is they who will make the critical choices, and can make a positive difference.
16. Emphasising the importance of doing voluntary work, she recalled that, as a Red Cross/Crescent volunteer during her teaching days at the Public School, she would take School children to the nearby Jinnah Hospital to talk to child patients who did not have relations or visitors. As a volunteer of APWA, she recalled how she would visit a village in rural Karachi to teach the children under the shade of a tree.
17. These days, children from upper income groups are spoiled by depending on air-conditioners and on other luxuries.
18. But what about those children who walk to schools? Or who travel dangerously in over-crowded vans?
19. She urged all to feel for, and to pray for people who have low incomes and limited means of transport.
20. She said that all learning is useless unless we learn the biggest lesson of life: the lesson of humanism. She referred to the importance of having idols, implementers, activists in society who help bring positive change.
21. She referred to the great poet of Bangladesh, Mr. Nazar-ul-Islam whose Bengali poetry reflected diverse influences of, and respect for other languages and cultures.
22. She extolled the importance of studying our own literature while also studying English authors and authors from other countries.
23. Urging innovation and adventure, she asked the students to think of the unlikely and the unthinkable, to think boldly. Because dreams are a source of strength. “You should be people who discover the beauty of reading, questioning and listening”.
24. In an age of pervasive media and cell-phones, real, true dialogue with deep listening to others are losing ground to the superficiality of SMS messages, TV chatter, etc. There is a need to deepen and enrich conversation and dialogue.
25. She said that she too is a Publican alumni because: “I have learnt more than I have taught. Every time I receive a call from a Publican, I feel so good, so enriched”.
26. She fondly, sadly recalled young Publican students who passed away prematurely in accidents or due to illness.
27. She reminded students that families are the primary sources of learning values.
28. She said that the Publican alumni are not serving the cause of promoting education for the sake of material gain, that they spend their time and resources to help present and future students of the School. She said that the Publican Alumni have actually learnt the art of living, the lesson of “giving back to life”.
29. In conclusion, she said that Public School has “taught me loyalty, patriotism, love, respect and binding values”. Today, as the grandmother of 6 children, she is proud to be present with students, alumni and teachers because PAT is solid proof of taking practical actions to promote excellence in education rather than make empty promises.
30. All present gave her a warm, sustained ovation.
31. Several students complimented her and asked interesting questions.
32. The undersigned introduced her to the students. During her 20-year tenure at Public School, Ms. Musharrif secured a B.Ed in 1962, and her distinguished career included being selected as a Fulbright scholar invited to the USA for 1965-1966 to study language, arts and school administration. In 1970, she married senior advocate Mr. Yousuf Rafi after which she became the proud mother of 3 daughters and one son. She was invited to the Cultural Learning Institute at Hawaii in USA in 1978. On return, she transited from being a part-time English teacher at the Pakistan-American Cultural Centre, Karachi to become a full-time teacher (after leaving Public School in 1978) and remained associated with PACC up to 2005, when she retired with honour. She taught English, or supervised the teaching of English to thousands of students over the past 5 decades and enjoys exceptional esteem and affection from all who know her. On behalf of all, the undersigned thanked her for her insights and her presence with us.
33. Publican Alumni present included: Khawaja Fariduddin, Zaffar A. Khan, Sabiha Pervaiz, Nighat Mir, Nudrat Alvi, Zohair Ashir, Shamim Riaz, Dr. Masroor Afreedi, Javed Farooqui, a guest of Javed Farooqui, Waseem Ghani, Syed Ayaz Mahmood, Hamid Jalil, Shahid Ejaz and S. M. Babar.
34. On our behalf, the son of the late, lamented Muhammad Canteenwala served patties and cold drinks to students and guests, both before and after the lecture.
35. Khawaja Fariduddin, as usual, thoughtfully brought tea and biscuits for the alumni.
36. All those alumni who were absent were greatly missed.
Thank you for your attention.
With best wishes,