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Sir Syed: a role model

October 16, 2012

TODAY is Sir Syed’s birthday. Let us take stock of his legacy and count his beneficiaries. M.A.O College was established in 1877 with seven teachers and a small number of students. This proved to be the foundation stone for Aligarh Muslim University, which came into being in 1920. Now this university has 1,400 teachers and 30,000 students.

There are 109 departments, six colleges, two polytechnics, five institutes and 13 centres. It offers 323 courses. It is ranked the 8th university in India. This banyan tree of knowledge is still growing and sprouting new branches. Malapuram in Kerala and Murshidabad in West Bengal started working in February and March 2011, respectively. Kishananj in Bihar and Aurangabad in Maharashtra are in the offing. Approval has been given for the fifth centre to be located later.

Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology in Karachi with its over 6,000 students and Aligarh Institute of Technology with its 2,500 students are the main beneficiaries in Pakistan, besides numerous institutions using the name of Sir Syed.

In the 92 years of life of this spring of knowledge, hundreds of thousands have improved their quality of life. All the alumni owe their academic being to this university.

It may not be the largest university of the world, but it carries two features which make it unique in the world.

This university came into being after the relentless efforts of a single man seeking donations from all and sundry. To pursue his dream he went to England and got the academic and building blueprints for this university.

He advocated the use of English for instructions at the university. All this coming from a man whose own English was very rudimentary. In this pursuit, he had to recourse to translators.

On this day let us pledge to accomplish his mission which he spelled out in 1894: “My friends, we will be fully educated only when we have full control of education in our hands … when philosophy will be in our right hand, natural sciences in our left hand, and the crown of la elaha illallah will be on our heads … We become humans only when we take education in our hands.”