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Educational institutions no longer centre of cultural activities

February 08, 2015

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Gordon College near Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi.
Gordon College near Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi.

Not very long ago, colleges used to be the nurseries for artists and literary figures thanks to the dramatic societies and clubs, which now no longer exist due to multiple reasons, including the lack of interest among teachers and students in extracurricular activities.

In the Potohar region, Gordon College was known to be the centre of cultural activities before and after the partition of the subcontinent.

The debating, dramatic and literary clubs provided an opportunity to the youth to try their talent in dramas, debates and poetry.

On the golden jubilee of Gordon College on December 29, 1957, the Jubilee Hall of the institution was inaugurated by the then President Iskander Mirza.

Rahat Kazmi, Sahira Kazmi, Shujaat Hashmi and others, who later became renowned film and TV actors, were members of the dramatic club of the college and used to perform in the hall. Films also used to be shown in the hall not only to the students of Gordon College but also from schools and other colleges.

The college also produced Indian film industry stars like Balraj Sahni and Shayam Kumar.

Renowned TV and Film artist Sajjad Kishwar told Dawn that the government should revive the drama and literature club in colleges.

A view of the Jubilee Hall which was inaugurated in December 1957 by the first president of Pakistan, Iskander Mirza.— Photos by Khurram Amin
A view of the Jubilee Hall which was inaugurated in December 1957 by the first president of Pakistan, Iskander Mirza.— Photos by Khurram Amin

“Healthy activities are a prerequisite for developing a better civil society. The colleges are nurseries of drama artists where youth explore their talent,” he said.

He was of the view that sports, drama and literature provided an opportunity to the youth to develop positive thinking and become a better citizen of the society. Many TV actors started their work from the college stage shows.

Former railway minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, who was a student leader in the Gordon College, told Dawn, “Gone are the days when students used to actively participate in the drama and literary clubs besides being active in political and cultural activities.”

He said in the 60s the students of Gordon College would participate in different club activities and in the evening organise different functions. “Rahat Kazmi and other students would perform on the stage.”

He said Federal Minister for Information Pervaiz Rashid and he were the members of the debating club of Gordon College.

The former minister said he learned the art of speech at students union functions.

“It is the responsibility of teachers and the administration to engage the students in such activities so that they can express their feelings in a positive way. Student unions are also necessary to promote healthy activities in the educational institutions, he maintained.

There existed two literary clubs, Barr Club and Minerva Club in Gordon College where students were groomed,” Mr Rashid said.

The college’s founder, Rev Dr Andrew Gordon.
The college’s founder, Rev Dr Andrew Gordon.

Rawalpindi Arts Council (RAC) Resident Director Waqar Ahmed told Dawn that they were facing problems in holding drama festivals as colleges did not take interest in such activities.

“We do send letters to all colleges and universities, inviting students for performance at stage but mostly colleges do not respond positively as they have no dramatic clubs,” he added.

He said if students came to the RAC, they would teach them the basics of drama.

He blamed the absence of dramatic and literary clubs in educational institute for the youth being involved in negative activities,” he said.

National College of Arts (NCA) Rawalpindi director Dr Nadeem Omer Tarrar was of the view that the government should take steps to revive dramatic and literary clubs as well as student unions in universities and colleges.

“Student unions basically organise healthy activities in the educational institutions. In the past, the unions would organise art exhibitions, poetry session, dramas, music concerts, sports and other functions,” he said.

The RAC director said after the ban on students union in General Zia’s regime extracurricular activities vanished from the public sector educational institutions.

He maintained the students would take part in such activities if they were provided proper platform. He said that the inter-college competitions would revive these activities.

Amjad Zia, assistant professor of Urdu in Gordon College, said the students were not taking interest in such activities as we invite them to take part in the drama but nobody gave positive response.

He held that nationalisation policy of the educational institutions had gradually brought the cultural activities in the institutions to an end.

“Internet, mobile phones and social media chatting consumed most of the spare time of the students and they refused to join drama and literary clubs. Barr Club and Minerva Club can be revived if students take interest,” he said.

“Gordonian, the college magazine, which published –, the teachers faced problems to get the stuff and for last four years, the annual magazine did not published as there is no student to give his write-up to be published,” he said.

Naeem Nathanial, assistant professor of English in Gordon College, admitted that the teachers and students had lost interest in extracurricular activities in the colleges and the universities.

He said the college used to organise fashion shows in the sports festival but after the recent wave of terrorism most of the students and teachers avoided such activities.

Naseem Arif, PTV drama director, said the colleges, art councils and stages were the nurseries of drama actors but the students lost their interest as they found no future in the performing art.

“In PTV, regional centres would hunt for talent by organising drama competitions in colleges but now this practice no longer exists, and untalented people have found their way into the industry which has destroyed it,” he said.

Published in Dawn, February 8th, 2015

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