Alert Sign Dear reader, online ads enable us to deliver the journalism you value. Please support us by taking a moment to turn off Adblock on

Alert Sign Dear reader, please upgrade to the latest version of IE to have a better reading experience


Flashback: Remains of the day


Your Name:

Recipient Email:

St.Jospeh's - one of Karachi's oldest educational institutions – photo by Fahim Siddiqi/White Star

Standing tall among the various crumbling edifices in Saddar, Karachi, are the few, very important seats of learning; institutions that have contributed tremendously towards the educational sector of the country. These schools are evidence of how different communities have tried to bring education to Pakistan. There are schools built by Christian missionaries, Parsis and Muslims, all established with the goal to fortify the system of education and to offer those who enter their gates a platform to groom their intellect, and moral and ethical values.

This was a time when schools were not just a place to rote-learn from books, a school took upon itself the responsibility of moulding its students into individuals that the nation should be proud of. Apart from academics, they taught discipline and humility, and trained their students to think independently; to face courageously the adversities they will face in life.

With 40 years of teaching experience under her belt, Hilda Pareira has witnessed the ups and downs in the education system quite closely. Born to conservative Goan Catholic parents, Pareira completed her schooling from St Joseph’s Convent, Karachi, and intermediate from St Joseph’s College for Women, Karachi. Soon after, she found a job in St Patrick High School.

“This was in the late ’50s and my first salary was Rs60,” she laughs, “In those days, even matriculates were hired as teachers, although the schools did see to it that a decent level of education was maintained. I feel that by and large, the most successful schools were those run by the Catholic Board of Education (CBE) because the teachers there were quite senior, and some even came with an experience of 50 years. I don’t think there were many teachers with less than five years of experience in these schools,” she says.

The educational environment, particularly in private schools, was extremely conducive to learning. Senior teachers were willing to lend a helping hand to fresh recruits.

“I being a junior at that time learnt a lot from my seniors; they were role models for me,” says Pareira. The level of discipline, too, was extremely strict back then, a characteristic that is sadly lacking in today’s system of education, she reflects.

“For example, when I was studying in St Joseph’s school, one of my teachers was a lady, Ms Irene Dias,” recalls Pareira, “She was our head teacher when I was in primary and taught us mathematics. She was so strict that during tests if we added even a single dot after the time was up, she would grade us a straight zero, even if our answers were absolutely correct. I got a zero once after scoring full marks. But that taught us discipline; I don’t think it’s possible in this day and age” she smiles.

Schools did not mushroom in every nook and corner back then like they do today; Cambridge system of education was offered in selected institutions. Karachi Grammar, St Joseph’s, St Patrick’s, Convent of Jesus and Mary and St Paul’s were among those which offered O Levels, and A Levels was introduced much later. Education was relatively cheap, and catered comfortably to a wider section of the population. “The Cambridge-wallahs spoke much better English than the Matric students; and I remember how they always considered themselves to be far superior,” laughs Pareira.

The students, she says, came from various backgrounds. Students from modest backgrounds rubbed shoulders with sons of commissioners and other influential personalities. Yet, the strict level of discipline did not allow them to play the fool, even though, having taught only boys, Pareira likes to believe that essentially they are all the same, regardless of which decade they belong to. “One needed a lot of effort to keep them under control, a skill I mastered over decades,” she says. In those days, it was easier since the class strength was small, and teachers were able to give individual attention to each student, and focus on those who were weak in academics.

But it wasn’t just the private schools which were maintaining a decent level of education. Most government schools in those days were run by either KMC or Sindh government, and unlike today, boasted high academic standards. One such example is the Government High School Jacob Lines (now called Government Technical High School) which, for a long time, continued to provide a high standard of education. The federal government schools — or FGs as they were popularly referred to — were English medium and were situated at Malir Cantt, Cantt Station and Drigh Road. Schools were set up by railways as well.

The twist in the fairytale came with nationalisation in the early ’70s. Barring a few, such as the missionary schools, most private institutions were nationalised, and gradually, the educational standard began to dwindle. Few would disagree that nationalisation wreaked more havoc in the education system than it did in any service. Many private schools could not manage the upkeep of their institutions and, like the educational standard, the buildings, too, began to disintegrate.

“The English-medium schools, especially, suffered the most,” recalls Pareira, “The teachers who came in during or after nationalisation spoke very poor English and were generally ill-qualified. And in schools which functioned in English-medium — whether one taught geography, history, or mathematics — the quality plummeted. Unfortunately, schools were forced to take such people since many of the good teachers had left for fear of being posted in out-of-the-way places. And when they left, the gaps were filled by incompetent teachers. Obviously the biggest casualties were the students who suffered, and the level of education went downhill.”

Yet, legacies of the bygone era continue to linger. Despite the onslaught of ill-conceived policies and lowering bars, some dedicated souls have managed to preserve the values and standard that endorsed their reputation as the flag bearers of quality education and success. They continue to make us proud.

Comments (33) Closed

G.A. Nov 25, 2012 11:43pm
Credit is also due to the Sri Lankan teachers at these schools who had excellent knowledge and methods of teaching. Their after school tuitions offered a lot of help to students from other schools who could not get into these top schools.
Mariam Nov 26, 2012 07:56am
I have studied from St. Joseph's and no doubt it is one of the best schools in Karachi for girls.. It has made me what I am today. I believe basic learning has to be very strong for a person which is a key factor.. My school learning has made me what I am today.. Hats off to my school and teachers !!
maira khan Nov 26, 2012 07:25am
observer Nov 25, 2012 01:26pm
Thanks Dawn for publishing this comment. This is a grave concern. Something to be talked out more than Imran Khan and Taliban.
Anand Nov 27, 2012 07:41am
"Defence of a country lies in literacy rate of a country."
Cyrus Howell Nov 27, 2012 03:27pm
We all live in the Republic of the World.
Ashok Nov 27, 2012 08:07am
I think it shows you have missed the point when you speak of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.... Nov 27, 2012 09:33am
Proud to be St Patrician
Cyrus Howell Nov 27, 2012 03:18pm
God Bless you.
Anand Nov 27, 2012 07:38am
Had Pakistan produced scientists like Abdus Salam? In it's sixty years of histrory just one scientist. Education is the bedrock of a nation.You have to study Physics to make a computer,not Sharia.
Sunez Nov 25, 2012 04:33pm
Proud to be taught by Miss Hilda Pariera at St. Pats, she is great teacher, I still remember extra lessons in Maths and the sheer confidence she provided.....Thank you
Yawar Nov 26, 2012 12:12am
I get scared when people talk of establishing "one" educational system in Pakistan without clearly indicating what that "one" educational system would be like. Would it be a St. Joseph/Karachi Grammar, a government school, or a madrassa type of system? If we want to compete with our neighbors and the rest of the world, then clearly we need to establish a system that emulates the St. Joseph/Karachi Grammar system to the extent practicable.
Mr.T Nov 25, 2012 01:07pm
If Schools like this were open in South / North Wazirstan and in Blouchistan or in Interior remote area of sindh and punjab, only then Pakistan will be truly Islamic Republic of Pakistan...
ReflectOn Nov 26, 2012 04:01am
"I wonder people still vote for PPP". . Well, Dawn and NFP are fightig for their cause...for more of the same. Why don't you ask them?
vijay, chennai, India Nov 28, 2012 06:10am
Just waiting for Mr. Lk Advanis post:D
Habib ur Rehman Khan Nov 28, 2012 04:41am
No Nuke can guarantee more defense and confidence than an educated society as in most cases education brings wisdom and tolerance. Could not agree more with respected Ms. Pareira, that the education was the biggest loser in the so called nationalization by some one who himself was a so called FOREIGN EDUCATED and a visionary. Just to counter his critics against the atrocity filled policy adopted against EAST PAKISTAN ultimately ending up making it Bangladesh, more ill was done through NATIONALIZATION. I myself is a witness of the down fall of the educated system as most of my maternal family is and was associated with education department since long. The moral, social and financial CORRUPTION is no way lesser, than the POLICE department. Anyways, UNTIL HOPE REMAINS POSSIBLE WE SHALL CONTINUE TO HOPE!!!!
Adil Jadoon Nov 25, 2012 01:32pm
Unfortunately none of "our " have an educational policy of any sort. They have no interest in the country as long as they can continue to live as pharaohs. Lets hope PTI has something to offer but may good people have continued to work despite the shortcomings of the current system to fill in the gaps left by our current educational system.
ahsananwari Nov 25, 2012 02:18pm
An interesting read, it would be equally interesting to do a piece on such institutions present in other provinces. The idea of good education catered to by a religious diverse group could of had been highlighted more.
Kehkashan Shafqat Nov 25, 2012 03:22pm
proud to be a Josephian=))
Omar Nov 28, 2012 04:05pm
As Ashok said, and to add to that, there were such schools in other areas as well, i can name an APS from Quetta where we had an Aussie principal, music and base ball and drama and activity sessions along with excellent academics and to think it was an APS!! The fall of our educational system has been sad, steep and pretty much all encompassing! What a shame really ..
kaiser Nov 28, 2012 07:52pm
There must be a reason. Think.
junaid Nov 27, 2012 11:10pm
when i visited pakistan after 22 years the first thing i did after meeting my relatives and friends was to take my kids to st patrick's school and the chowkidar was nice enough to let us go inside and i told my kids about all the great memories and wonderful time i had there .Surprisingly wazirs canteen is still there i only wish he was open that particular day.
afrem Nov 25, 2012 07:59pm
Hilda Pereira was an amazing teacher with plenty of compassion for her students as a teacher. I remember some of our students were infatuated by her. I was a student of Sir Saleem who was equally qualified to be a great Class Teacher of mine. I salute to all the teachers of St. Pat's of that era. We were moulded by the BEST!!!!!
Syed Nazim Nov 25, 2012 03:16pm
PPP in sevety not only destroyed industry but education too.Goverrnment service was bruised so severly that government fails to deliver at all the fronts todate. I wonder people still vote for PPP.
Syed Khaliq Nov 27, 2012 05:46pm
Proud Patrician, and yes the Cambridge section guy. Not the best school but had the best teachers like Mrs D'Mello who laid our foundation in grade 7, and the many Sri Lankan teachers who dedicated their lives to imparting quality education. Khaliq
Omer Nov 28, 2012 02:10pm
I agree with the idea of nationalization damaging institutions..What really hurts s when you see schools built on 5 marla plots with no playgrounds at all. I wonder if the kids of next generation will ever consider school to be a second home
ABM Nov 26, 2012 09:18am
proud to be a Patrician! I salute all the teachers for making me what I am today.
Faraz Farooq Herekar Nov 26, 2012 06:36pm
Oh how nostalgic. Ms Hilda Pareira was my class teacher in Saint Patricks and sure was a marvelous one. St Pats i salute you and my teachers i miss my school and all my teachers. Faraz Herekar. Class of 88
Yawar Nov 26, 2012 12:01am
I agree. In addition, the degeneration of civil society (corruption, group rivalries, lawlessness, religious extremism, etc.) also took off from the 70s. We were all responsible for that.
Ali G Nov 25, 2012 11:16am
education system in pakistan has definitely taken a steep downfall in past couple of decades...with poor governance and obsolete education syllabus...things are getting worse day by day... and quality education becoming a dream for low income families children.
Syed Nov 27, 2012 09:37am
BVS and Mama Parsi shcool have been established in Karachi since 1850 and with the request from Quaide - e - Azam , these initially private parsi only schools opened their doors to the nation. I am proud to be Virbaijiete and these are essential part of Pakistan and our nation and should be celeberated for great contributions. I would recommend an article that takes analysis of all of the great schools & academia that have contributed to our nation . Our hearts will always be greatful to teachers that have passed on their wisdom and ideology. All prayers for the GEMS of the nation. Syed Huzaifa
danial tariq Nov 26, 2012 01:34pm
The contribution of Parsi community towards education is actually tremendous...
WALEED FAKHAR Nov 26, 2012 07:37pm