Higher education is the foundation stone of progress in any society. It equips individuals in taking learned and well-informed decisions leading to the greater stability of society. It further aids people in laying a safe, secure and comfortable groundwork for their own future. In short, higher education is the lifeblood for prosperity of not only individuals but of any society as a whole.
Realising the worth of higher learning, Pakistan has also taken some positive steps towards higher education policy and quality assurance, and degree recognition and development of new institutions along with the uplift of existing institutions of higher studies.
However, unfortunately, the existing number of higher education institutions are still limited as opposed to such a huge population with most of them also located in the big cities while the remote areas encounter a dearth of higher learning institutions. Furthermore, students are often faced with issues of affordability.
Sara Ahmed, a student seeking admission in the bachelor’s degree programme in a reputed institution states, “Many reputed institutions have a very high fee structure. Although some reputed public sector universities are affordable but they do not offer state-of-the-art facilities, an essential part of a sound education these days.”
In this scenario, the elevation of Sindh Madressatul Islam (SMI) into a university recently, seems like a welcome step for all and sundry towards affordable, quality higher learning.
The historic institution was founded with the efforts of Khan Bahadur Hassanally Effendi on Sept 1, 1885. Effendi had the vision of employing education as a tool for bringing social reformation and a harbinger of change. The institute was elevated to college level on June 21, 1943 and, finally, on Dec 22, 2011, it was granted university status.
The SMI University or SMIU has at present started five departments namely Media Studies, Education, Environmental Studies, Business Administration and Computer Science, each offering a four-year bachelor of studies programme.
SMIU’s Vice Chancellor Dr Mohammad Ali Shaikh discusses the facilities offered by the institute, “The university offers all the latest and modern facilities to cater to the needs of the students — air-conditioned classrooms each equipped with multimedia projectors. There are state-of-the-art laboratories, a library, an auditorium, museum, cafeteria, etc. The institution has three computer laboratories equipped with most modern desktops, laptops, scanners, printers, wifi Internet access and emergency medical facilities for both the students and teachers alike.”
Shahnaz Rashid, a mother who sought admission for her son in the institute states, “When I surveyed the university and the facilities offered here, it seemed that SMIU is a pleasant surprise for the students and their guardians alike. Even though it is a public sector university, it offers many private sector facilities and HEC-recognised education at a reasonable fee.”
Special focus has also been placed in recruiting staff, especially the teaching faculty. In this regard, Dr Syed Azfar Ali, chairperson, Department of Media Studies at the University states, “Veteran teaching faculty is the most crucial step in imparting quality education. All the departments at SMIU have a dedicated PhD faculty, some of whom are foreign-qualified.”
About the quality of education at the institution, Ms Sadaf Naqvi, an assistant professor at the university states, “The institute is the alma mater of the Quaid-i-Azam. It has also produced several visionaries such as Sir Shahnawaz Bhutto, Allama I.I. Kazi, Allama Umer Bin Mohammad Daudpota, A.K. Brohi, etc. This speaks volumes about the quality of education of the institution since the beginning.”
For the admissions of the 2013 batch, countless students belonging to every class and religion from all over the region were witnessed flocking the institute. In short, it is safe to conclude that whether it is a positive gesture by the present government to elevate the institute to university level or the efforts of the institution itself in struggling to achieve university status, either way the institute seems to be an endeavour in providing affordable and quality education to all, fulfilling the dearth of less educational institutions of higher learning as well that unfortunately exists in almost every sector of Pakistan.