Turkish teacher Doğan Yücel wrote about a student he prepared for the Turkish Olympiads while he was working in Lahore, and the student’s determination, hard work and achievements.
I mentioned earlier that in early 2005 we received a letter of endorsement signed by Mr. Imran Masood, Punjab Minister for Education, allowing us to organize scholarship exams in Punjab. Afterwards, we conducted scholarship exams in public schools across Northern Punjab, especially in the financially underdeveloped districts of Lahore. The language of instruction in most of these schools was not English, and in some it was not even Urdu.
On March 31, 2005, we held a scholarship exam in one of the most successful public schools in Lahore, in a neighbourhood close to Islampura. That school had 1,500 students. 42 students from that school took the exam and we shortlisted the successful students. Their test results were extraordinary. We invited those students for an interview with the high-achievers from other schools. Brothers Mubashir and Muzammil were among the interviewees. We accepted these brothers to the Gulberg branch of PakTurk Schools and also to the dormitory with full scholarship. However, Muzammil enrolled in our school a year later.
We learned about the interview result from our neighbour!
Let’s listen to what happened in that process as first-hand account from Mubashir himself: “Our school principal informed us about PakTurk’s scholarship exam. He said some Turkish educators would be visiting to conduct a scholarship exam. The school administration determined the students who would take the exam, including me and my brother. We were very excited about the thought of whether we would be successful in the exam or not. Because we would not only compete with the students in our own school, but also with the successful students from other public schools on that day. Although the tests looked different from what we were used to, we thought we had done well. A week later, we learned that we had been called for an interview. At that time, we did not have cell phones or home phones. We had given our neighbour’s phone number as our contact number. We learned from them that we passed the interview. Upon this happy news, we distributed gulab jamun to our neighbours.”
Mubashir first met another PakTurk student named Inam ul Haq on the day of the interview. A teacher from the public school had brought them to the interview with his own vehicle. They thought that the interview had gone well, but they were not sure whether they got accepted or not.
Our school principal also recommended PakTurk
Meanwhile, a foundation which carried out a joint education project with the US Embassy offered Mubashir free high school and university education in the United States, within the scope of a scholarship program called ‘Access Microscholarship’ organized in Lahore. For the scholarship in America to be finalized, Mubashir had to take the exam once again at the end of the year.
Mubashir continues: “We were confused by the offer from the United States. We began to review the pros and cons of both options. Due to our age, we did not want to be separated from our family and we were going to study at a good school in our hometown on scholarship. These were positive aspects for PakTurk. The fact that the PakTurk branch was far from our house and that the school was run by ‘foreigners’ made our decision difficult. Our public-school principal recommended us to study at PakTurk instead of going to America on a scholarship. This cleared our doubts and we enrolled.”
The principal of the school Mubashir mentioned later enrolled his own daughter in PakTurk Asifa Irfan Girls’ College in Lahore.
He memorized all the Turkish words on the posters
When Mubashir started PakTurk, his Urdu was good, but he knew no Turkish and his English was poor. Yet, he was very hardworking and intelligent. At that time, I used to prepare students for the Turkish Olympiads. When he heard about the preparations for the Olympiads at the school, Mubashir wanted to participate too. I paid little attention to him at first, as he was a new student and did not know Turkish. I thought he could join for the rounds next year. Unbeknownst to me, he memorized all the words on the Turkish posters in the language classroom.
At that time, the Internet was not very common and there were no smartphones. I used to give homework to other scholarship students I coached for the Olympiads. Sometimes I asked Mubashir to do those assignments. After 2-3 months, I was very surprised to see the improvement in him and I took special interest. I gave him private lessons sometimes at my own home and sometimes at school. After about 7-8 months of work, Hafiz Mubashir, a 10th grade student at PakTurk Lahore Gulberg Branch, achieved success one after another. My wife and I took the students, who would participate in the Pakistan National Finals of the Turkish Olympiads, from Lahore to Islamabad. Mubashir first came first in the qualifying rounds among all PakTurk branches across Pakistan. Except for his village close to Faisalabad, for the first time in his life he had travelled to another city other than Lahore.
Won a gold medal with eight months of work
The main reason for Mubashir’s interest in Turkish was the sincere interest of his mentors in the dormitory. He used to take the workbook I gave him home on the weekends and solve the exercises. Some evenings he would not notice the time in class and would work until two or three at midnight.
After qualifying in Pakistan, I coached Mubashir for a few more months. He won the gold medal in his category (basic level grammar) in the 4th International Turkish Olympiads final held in Turkey on June 9-16, 2006. Thanks to a short study of eight months, he became the ‘champion’ in a category in which 85 countries competed. I congratulate him once again.
Mubashir and I, as the Turkish teacher who prepared him for the competition, would be presented with gifts in Pakistan in the same year. A ceremony was held at the Holiday Inn in Lahore on September 21. I prepared my student for the ceremony and we attended to the ceremony accompanied by our school principal.
He also taught at his alma mater
We arranged a Pak Rupees cheque equivalent of $1,000 from Habib Bank to showcase his medal and monetary award. We enlarged the cheque and printed it on a large cardboard. The awards were presented by Mr. Mian Mohammad Soomro, then-Chairman of the Senate of Pakistan. Since the President was abroad, Mr. Soomro was also the acting President.
Mubashir earned the all-Punjab highest achiever award in Biology in the university entrance exams the same year. As I mentioned at the beginning, Mubashir’s brother Muzammil was also very smart and we had enrolled him to the school on a full scholarship later. After finishing the 9th and 10th grades in high school, Mubashir went to Peshawar to study 11th and 12th grades there. He came to Lahore again for his university education. He had qualified to be placed in one of the most prestigious universities in Pakistan. While studying at the university, he served as a mentor in our dormitory. After graduating from the university, he worked as the administrator of an education foundation. He also worked as a physics teacher in some branches of PakTurk Schools.
Mubashir Shahzad’s medal in 2006 was the first gold medal PakTurk received abroad for a Turkish competition. After returning from the Turkish Olympiads, Mubashir also wrote his memories and experiences in Turkey at the request of our school principal, Mr. Adem. However, we couldn’t find that article to share it with you, even though we searched a lot ☹
To be continued…
Part Eleven: A full-fledged annual night in Lahore