KARACHI, Aug 9: Anita Ghulam Ali, one of the country’s most famous teachers who served twice as education minister of Sindh, died in a hospital here on Friday after protracted heart problems. She was 76.
“She had been in the hospital since July 28 for cardiac problems and breathed her last at about 2.20pm today,” said one of her colleagues at the Sindh Education Foundation (SEF) that she had quit a few months ago after a 24-year stint.
Born in Karachi in 1938 in the house of a former judge and a family of intellectuals and linguists, Ms Ghulam Ali was an out-and-out Karachiite, and an athlete who captained her university’s netball team and a champion table tennis and badminton player.
St Lawrence Girls School near what used to be Cincinnatus Town and now is called Garden East was just a stone’s throw away from her grand house and became the first destination of her arduous trek that made her an epitome of education in the country.
Her house was not far from the hilly area where the Quaid-i-Azam was later buried. She told a subordinate how she saw people moaning and beating their chests during the funeral procession of the Father of the Nation.
Ms Ghulam Ali often bunked botany classes in Dayaram Jethamal (DJ) College on Saturday afternoons to watch the movies that cinemas showed at concessional rates to students once a week.
She would rip pages from her college books to create room in her bag to bring her table tennis racquet and shoes.
Her restless soul finally found a niche in the Karachi University where she found pull in microbiology and left the campus as a topper – a fact that put everyone who knew her from the beginning in a pleasant shock.
She was also a popular English newscaster at Radio Pakistan until Islamabad became the federal capital.
“I can’t be shy to say that a third class student can become a first class teacher,” she would often say after joining the Sindh Muslim College in 1961 where she remained a revered faculty member till 1985 despite being a tough taskmaster.
She used to box the ears of her students, pulled their hair, ripped up their pockets. “I think this is the kind of communication skill that develops once you show them that you care for them,” she repeatedly said.
A large number of her students are in government, police and top vocations abroad.
Late Anita was a leader in the teachers’ movement in 1970 during which she was beaten with police batons and briefly put behind bars. The movement was to get the private colleges nationalised to ensure that teachers, who lived pathetically while working for private masters, could receive handsome and uninterrupted salaries.
After leaving the SM College, she headed the Teachers’ Foundation and then became managing director of the SEF after its inception.
She served as a provincial education minister in Mumtaz Ali Bhutto’s interim government in 1996 for three months and then in 1999 after retired Gen Pervez Musharraf seized power.
She quit Gen Musharraf’s government when the military ruler announced a controversial referendum to consolidate his power.
Among various other distinctions, Prof Anita was the recipient of the Sitara-i-Imtiaz for her lifetime contribution to education and community development.
She refused a further extension in her tenure by the provincial government and retired from the SEF on Jan 23 this year.
She, as she often said, is survived by ‘thousands and thousands’ of her students.