Educationist Sadullah Bayazit narrated the opening process of the first Turkish School in Khairpur Mirs in the fourth part of his memoirs in which he also narrated Abdülgani Gülmez’s “life of emigration”.
From where did the idea of opening a school in Khairpur Mirs originate? Who mediated the opening of the school? With what motive did the local government officials in Khairpur Mirs decide to do so?
Khairpur Mirs is an important city that served as the capital of the Khairpur princely state of the Talpur family, which maintained its autonomy in the Sindh province during the British rule across the Subcontinent between 1857 and 1947. Since there is also a town named Khairpur near Sheikhupura in the Punjab province, Khairpur in the Sindh province is known as Khairpur Mirs, denoting the title ‘Mir’ of the Talpur princes.
With the Khairpur princely state’s determined official unification with Pakistan in October 1955 – eight years after the country’s independence in 1947 – Khairpur Mirs claimed an important position in the region by means of its small-scale textile factories, silk and leather workshops, carpet looms, and sugar and flour mills. In addition, the city has also been known across Pakistan for its delicious dates and mangoes harvested from the orchards in the periphery.
Since some of the Khairpur princes had lived in Karachi before the unification of the state with Pakistan, their absence from the region had been claimed to have led to stunted educational facilities there. After the unification of the princely state with Pakistan, educational investments made by successive governments to the regions were not found adequate.
During the years when we had intensified our efforts for increasing the number of our schools, our financial means had also not been suitable for building our own school buildings from scratch. Our Foundation had shown close interest in the Adopt-a-School scheme implemented in 2001 by the Government of Pakistan across the country within the United Nations’ Education for All development framework which offered the private educational organizations the school buildings that were non-functional or underutilized to be dynamically restored both in infrastructure and education processes. Opting for this inexpensive alternative, we wished to have some old public school buildings allocated to our educational foundation, which had the status of an international non-governmental organization, on lease basis. We pledged with both the federal and the provincial education ministry officials that we would provide world-class education to all students by renovating and maintaining those school buildings.
A Turkish lady, who was married to a Pakistani diplomat and was also teaching at one of our schools in Islamabad at that time, introduced us to her spouse, who had been a consul for a period. This couple had met and married each other in Ankara and had later served abroad in different countries. The lady started teaching at our school in Islamabad not long after her husband left his post at Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We thought that a retired Pakistani diplomat, in whose bureaucratic experience we had confidence, could provide consultancy to our foundation on educational management matters. Eventually, we made an offer to him to that end.
Minister for Education had visited Turkey, but …
During the meetings we held with our Pakistani consultant who had joined our Foundation in 2000, there was a frequent issue under discussion: “How can we increase the number of our school branches?” During a meeting, the consultant expressed his opinion by saying, “When we examine the details of the education uplift framework declared by the Government, it seems difficult for us to get schools in provincial capitals. I believe that if we pledge for providing quality education to the students in the non-functional or underutilized schools in smaller cities and for renovating the school buildings, we will be able to get schools within the framework of this program.”
Our initial idea was to open schools in big cities, and a year passed with those deliberations. In the meantime, we accompanied the Sindh Minister for Education during her official visit to Turkey for observing the private school system there. On her return to Pakistan, the Minister for Education, who was impressed by the schools she had visited, asked the ministry officials to give our foundation officials a tour of a non-functional public school building in Clifton, a district very close to the Arabian Sea coastline in Karachi.
The school building under discussion was located close to Pakistan’s one of major oil filling facilities. Mostly Afghan refugees lived in the settlements around the school, and it was also an area where hundreds of tankers were parked day and night. The education minister came in person and toured the school building with us. However, two particular departments under the Sindh Ministry of Education were required to write positive consensus reports for the allocation of the school building to our foundation. Unfortunately, both of the departments unwarrantedly claimed, “The foundation officials must have influenced the esteemed Minister’s decision with gifts!” and declined from issuing any positive report.
Following that incident, our foundation’s Pakistani consultant said he hailed from Khairpur Mirs and that the local administrator of the region – who was an Oxford graduate – was also his childhood friend. He added, “The lady administrator is from the Pakistan People’s Party. She is not only my childhood friend; she also earnestly wishes to have the old and dilapidated school buildings in and around Khairpur Mirs reclaimed for educational use. If we present her our offer, I believe she will allot a large school building for our foundation’s use.”
We were finally convinced by what our consultant had told
In the days that followed, we decided to drive from Lahore to Karachi. The highways were not as what they are now. The foundation consultant said, “If we leave early in the morning, we will arrive in Khairpur Mirs in the evening. We can spend the night at my parents’ house and leave for Karachi in the morning.” We were going to Karachi to hold another meeting with the Ministry of Education officials regarding the rejection of our foundation’s request. We still could not obtain any result from that meeting as well and the allocation of the school building did not materialize. We stayed in Karachi for a few more days.
It was late January 2002. Our foundation consultant insisted on his previous proposal and said: “I told you before. It seems very difficult to have our foundation allocated with school buildings in big cities. I can hardly believe we can get school buildings from the high-level bureaucrats in those cities. Come and see the school building in Khairpur Mirs. The building proposed by the lady administrator of the region is really wonderful, it just needs a little renovation. Our foundation has the status of an international NGO and because of this, the provincial education ministry in Balochistan decided to allocate a small school building to our foundation. This is how we managed to come across a school building ready to be used immediately. As a foundation, we opened a school in a small city of Pakistan by signing an agreement with the provincial education officials. During our visit to Khairpur Mirs, we may cite that agreement as an example to local administrators there, so that the mentioned buildings can be allocated to our foundation.” After the allocation of the school building in Quetta to our foundation and in the light of the response we had received at the Sindh Ministry of Education in Karachi, we were convinced by what our foundation advisor had insisted. We said, “Okay!” to him.
To be continued…
Part Three: Islamabad days and Gani’s abundance…