Let's Plough For Peace And Knowledge: Dr. Parveen Shah

By: Aisha Jamali

Vice Chancellor Dr. Parveen Shah, a courageous lady with great enthusiasm and spirit came into the education scenario of our system with a will to do something for the young generation of our country.  Dr. Shah is an economist, woman development specialist and community development professional. Dr. Shah took over the charge of vice chancellor in difficult times. After taking charge, classes were resumed after two months agitation and a sense of security was created at campus.

Dr. Parveen Shah was appointed as a Professor at Economics Department University of Sindh. Later, she was appointed to Deputy Coordinator in Institute of Women Development Studies and after sometime she performed as a director of Institute of Women Development Studies and Area Study Centre Far East & South East Asia of Sindh University. In 2009, she was appointed as dean of faculty of social sciences then as pro vice chancellor in 2011 and now madam Shah is performing as Vice Chancellor.

Q. Madam, tell us something about your earlier education and family?

A: I had my primary, secondary and higher schooling from Hyderabad. My father was a very caring person who gave importance to education a lot due to which we all siblings were able to study as much as we wanted. I did my MA in Economics from the University of Sindh and PhD in 2002 in the same area of study. My family is always being very supportive and my childhood was great and I still cherish several memorable moments. I was an elder one so I got importance than other siblings. Those days cannot be forgotten and I must say today whatever I am is just because of my parent's support and prayers. I am mother of 2 children, my daughter Tazeem is doctor and my son Adeel is engineer. Now, they all are grown-ups and settled in their lives.

Q. How do you like being the Vice Chancellor of University of Sindh? How is it different from being a teacher?

A: I never thought of being the VC when I was a student at University of Sindh. But at the same time, I never thought of leaving this institution. I had so many opportunities when I was offered higher posts and pays but I refused it because university is very much important for me. Personally, I got many achievements, love, respect and dedication from here. I was the student of this university later served as a teacher for many years and now I am the head of this institution. It is a challenge being a vice chancellor. At the end of every day, I check myself whether I have done anything for Sindh University. Because all the days, months, years I am here, I do not wish to waste them. As a teacher, one is determined to observe one particular department but as a head of the organization, you have to watch each and every issue concerning various departments of the university and build a constructive image of the university.

Q. What is your vision for University of Sindh, and what changes have you made since becoming the Vice Chancellor?

A: Sindh University has a history of academic excellence and traditions. Students here respect their teachers and I wish that it should be maintained. My vision is that Sindh University be at number 1 in the university ranking, or if not one then at least in the leading universities of the world.

The first most important issue that I resolved upon becoming the VC was to resume classes since at the start of the new semester, there were boycott of classes so my first priority was to resume classes and get teachers and students back to curriculum and create sense of security at campus. Secondly, I have taken numeral decisions including quality of education, research and smooth functioning of the university. A part from this, every teacher and student should contribute for the betterment of the University of Sindh.

Q. What hindrances and barriers you are facing at the position of vice chancellor?

A: I became vice chancellor in a toughest time, so there were number of problems to look upon or can say still facing issues like security measures though I have took several strict measures to restrict the unpeaceful elements to enter in the premises of the university. Like, a meeting was conveyed to discuss law and order at the campus which decided that at all six entry points of the Sindh University security, police and rangers would be deployed on regular basis and also there is frequent checking of vehicles. The training to the security staff of the university is also given for the help of law and order at the campus. Further, the entry passes are allotted to the university faculty and staff vehicles and students are advised to display their student's cards at the checking places.

Q. What are the main reasons that any university of Pakistan does not compete with foreign university?

A: From primary level to higher education, sense of responsibility is very much important. By putting every work on other's shoulder is not fair. Everyone should understand and realize their importance as well as their duties. On other side, honesty is relatively necessary as without it, problems cannot be solved and our young graduates when go to abroad for doing their PhDs don't return to their homeland to serve their country which in turn is a great loss in the development of a nation.

Q. How do you see the current environment of Sindh University?

A: Collective efforts and struggle for the betterment are most needed. Here, 90% of students are neutral while remaining 10% belong to some particular parties. So, it is not bad to be of one's favorite but they should play positive role and give first priority to their studies and do not move from their track. Dialogue is the best way to resolve any issue and I am quite sure that the current scenario of the university will be solved through dialogue.

Q. Madam, there has been always a hue and cry from the students regarding the hostel facilities they are being offered. What are the steps that you have taken to solve the girls' hostel problems?

A. When I was a pro-vice chancellor, I have visited hostels and is fully aware about their problems and soon I will again visit hostels.

They come from far flung areas to acquire education leaving their homes so it is university's responsibility to accommodate them and provide them a better learning environment, so that they don't feel home sickness and enabling them to acquire quality education in a peaceful manner. Renovation of hostels has been recently completed, while steps are being taken to provide more facilities. The major problem is the quality of food items provided at hostels and its rates. We are rigorously working out to solve these problems.

Q:  Being a woman, what would you say about the challenges faced by women in male dominated society?

A: There has been great progress and enlightenment in our society with the changing times. However, women still face a lot of oppression at all levels and in every field. Today's women are suffering from lots of challenges and problems. Likewise, she is compressed under father instructions, when she is daughter, then as a wife or a sister etc. Sadly, women still have not acquired their righteous space which they really deserve. Although, in the recent times women have made their presence highly felt in every field of work, a majority of women still face the various women issues. Some people still have difficulty to accept the fact that gender bias is still prevalent in these modern times .Our male dominated society does not allow women to move forward. It is mother's responsibility, being mother as woman; she should realize her gender importance and treat both son and daughter equally.

Q:  Madam, what measures have you taken for the development of the university?

A: Yes, for the betterment and to maintain a good standard of university we have signed many projects and now the Chinese language will also be taught here and other scholarships facilities will be provided to teachers and students as well.

We have taken host of initiatives to improve academic environment and to establish peaceful coexistence at campus. Though, I remind you that majority of public sector universities are facing same problems and Sindh University is no exceptions. However, sometimes Sindh University is portrayed for wrong reasons.

We don't deny that Sindh University is problem free but cheer media coverage for wrong reasons is sometimes to exaggerate volatile environment that exist in our society.

Again, I have to remind you that we all are part of society and universities or any other institutions can't work in isolation, so these facts should not ignored by those who are eager to comment on university affairs. We always welcome positive criticism and suggestions. We also demand society to at least appreciate our positive initiatives for the betterment of higher education.

Q: Any message for your students?

A: I am proud of the fact that the university is not only producing qualified graduates but useful citizens, who are the future leaders of the country. I am sure that the younger generation of Pakistan is quite capable to pull the country out from the numerous crises faced by the nation. My dear students please do not waste your time because it is the time of competition, so work hard and make yourself to be able to compete in the market and get great positions. Let's plough for peace and knowledge.