It is not often that people get a chance to serve the institution that they believe has nurtured them and made them into who they are. Normally, we move from one school into another college and then go on to work somewhere else. But when we complete our education from some place and then get appointed to render our services at the same place, it is a rare story and how can one not feel blessed about it! Samreen Mushtaq had a chance to listen to two such Professors from Jamia, as they went down the memory lane, speaking of Jamia then and Jamia now, of their transition from being students to being professors in the University they absolutely adore.
At Jamia, he learnt to pronounce the basic alphabet of education. Then he left, only to return to teach and decipher the elementary codes of life here. Professor Zubair Meenai joined Nursery class in Jamia School somewhere around late 1960s, then left to complete his schooling elsewhere. Destiny made him come back in 1985 to join the B.A. course in Social Work at Jamia Millia Islamia and he went on to complete his M.A. and Ph. D from the same department. Last year, he completed his 3-year tenure as Head, Department of Social Work and is currently teaching in the department and also the Director of the Centre for Early Childhood Development and Research at JMI. Ask him how he feels about it, and Prof Meenai says, “I am proud to be a Jamiaiite, primarily because I have lived on campus all my life, for my father used to teach at Jamia. I have literally lived the ups and downs of its’ academic life. I have grown with it.”
For Professor Nisar ul Haq, the feelings are quite similar. He joined Jamia School as a student of Class 11 in 1977 and since then, there has been no looking back. This was followed by his admission to Jamia College for B.A. Honours in Political Science in 1979 and he went on to complete his M.A. and Ph. D from the same department. He is currently teaching at the Department of Political Science and also holding the post of Coordinator at Jamia’s Department of Tourism, Hotel, Hospitality and Heritage Studies. “My M.A. results were declared in August 1984 and on September 21st of the same year, I was appointed as a lecturer in Political Science. Since then, I continue to serve here. Jamia has grown tremendously as an institution and I have grown with it. Every day, Jamia is learning. I am learning with it. It’s a priceless feeling”, Prof. Haq says.
The Changes, as They See
Both Prof. Haq and Prof. Meenai take pride in the fact that as an institution, Jamia has come a long way since their transition from students to professors. They substantiate it by speaking of increase in student enrollment and the varied courses that Jamia offers now. However, the two differ in how they look at the changes in entirety. Prof. Haq is all praise for the varsity when he says “I see all changes as positive. Look at the student intake, entrance test standards and especially the discipline that has evolved over time”. Of his time as a student, he proudly recollects his contributions as a member of Subject Association from time to time and has nothing but good things to speak of about the varsity. But he sadly adds, “I feel really upset though when I see that Jamia schools aren’t as good now as they used to be in old times. I find discipline missing there.”
For Prof. Meenai, while some changes are appreciable, he says he misses what he calls the ‘spirit of the institution’. “As a person who has studied here, for me there is this sense of disconnect; the commitment and purpose that was carried by people who laid the foundations of this institution is somewhere missing. People left their cushy jobs to serve in Jamia because it was a mission to be carried out. That environment has sadly gone down largely to the expansion of the University”, he laments, adding that keeping Jamia’s social purpose in mind, meritocracy can’t be perpetuated here. He speaks of his concerns around the varsity’s vision, and its’ accessibility and affordability for those it was meant to be for.
Ban on Students Union; Justified or Not?
The ban on Students Union elections at Jamia has been in place since 2006. How was it then and are we better off without it, the two Professors are asked.
“Unionization in an educational institution, from my perspective, is basically to build up good citizenship, to get students to understand their rights and duties as well and learn how to act as adult citizens. It trains you in leadership and articulation. But Students Union is not necessarily the only way of learning this. Although we all are political people, but unfortunately the experience with Students Union in this varsity has not been good”, Prof. Meenai opines, adding that the varsity has developed a number of ways on its own where students can learn all these things and that there’s a need to strengthen Subject Associations more rather than a political students union.
While he only seems to oppose it for the reason that it didn’t prove to be a good experiment in Jamia’s case, Prof. Haq has a tougher stance on any form of politics in educational institutions. “It’s absolutely the right thing to ban students’ politics from campus. Educational institutions are for learning, there should be no space for either students’ or teachers’ politics. It gives a jolt to the discipline of the institution. When there was a students’ union in place at Jamia, I was its Advisor and I remember how disturbing it was. There was so much lawlessness, so many things off schedule”, states Prof Nisar ul Haq
What good is one’s job if it doesn’t give one the satisfaction and strength to carry on with renewed vigour! “When I look back, apart from being satisfied with what I teach, what has also given me immense satisfaction is my tenure as the Dean Students Welfare whereby I tried my best to make the administration accessible to students”, Prof. Zubair Meenai says, happiness clearly written over his face.
Prof Nisar ul Haq too is satisfied that he has served his alma mater through different posts. “I have held posts like the Students Union Advisor, Assistant Proctor, Deputy Proctor, Provost, President of University Football Club, HoD Political Science, Coordinator of B.A. Programme etc. I derive pleasure in knowing that I am contributing to Jamia the best way I can and learning more each day. I have no regrets,” he says, the contentment evident.
Vision for the Future
Over the years, they have seen Jamia grow and change, so what is it they wish for this institution now?
“We have to experiment every day. At a particular time, no experiment is wrong. We need to make department libraries better and Subject Associations stronger”, Prof. Haq says, highlighting some of the immediate targets.
Prof. Meenai however has long term goals on his mind. “We have not yet gotten over the job of what we were actually formed for. We have to remain committed to the original aims and objectives of the university so as to be better aligned to its social purpose”, he emphasizes.
While they look at things so differently from their individual perspectives, as is evident, there’s one question where their answers perfectly match. That is, when they are asked to share a moment from their time in Jamia that stands out compared to the rest. Prof. Meenai laughs and says, “There is no single incident that stands out. The journey in its entirety has been a wonderful one and truly memorable”. And Prof. Haq adds, “Each one of the moments is close to my heart. My ‘existence’ in Jamia – all of it – has been memorable.”
[Note: This article was first published in Episteme (2014), the Subject Association, Department of Political Science annual student magazine. It has been republished here with their permission.]