We know and recognize that there are many teachers we know who have given their hearts, minds and souls to nurture in us the things that they saw as vital for our education, critical to our success, and important for our individual development.
There are educators who through the power of education, act as a catalyst and prove to their students that they could rise above all the challenges in their personal lives and achieve their dreams. They possess a steadfast commitment to living a life filled with seeking their passion and inspiring others to do the same. This article plays tribute to one such educator.
In Peshawar on April 16 2014, a variety of colorful events marked the golden jubilee celebrations of Jinnah College for Women, a leading college for female education in the Province. The day long celebrations began with an impressive display of physical training by students, which was followed by a cake-cutting ceremony. University of Peshawar Vice Chancellor Professor Mohammad Rasul Jan was the chief guest on the occasion, while Islamia College Vice Chancellor Professor Qibla Ayaz, JCW Principal Professor Neelofar Zeb Arbab and scores of former students were also in attendance. The students staged a drama on the misery of women in the country.
“For me, it is just like homecoming and a matter of great pride” commented by the first female surgeon of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Professor Mahmonera on the occasion. She also remarked that admission to Jinnah College was a dream come true for her like for other girls and that she felt at home on campus and studied with peace of mind. The venue for all the above activities taking place was the Safia Hassan Hall, which has a seating capacity of 300, and is named after pioneering educator and true visionary Mrs. Safia Hassan, who started the college literally from scratch in 1964. The beautiful playground attached to the college is used for inter-class and inter-college tournaments and college sports.
Safia Hasan’s trail-blazing life started in Srinagar, Kashmir. She was born on September 21, 1920 and was the first girl in her family to go to school. After completing her high school, she applied and was admitted to, Lahore College for Women University. LCWU was affiliated with the University of the Punjab, where she received her B.Sc in 1940, with a gold-medal. On returning home to Srinagar, she joined Government College for Women as a Teacher. GCW was Srinagar’s first girls college. She got married to Professor Sahibzada Hassan Shah in 1944, but it seemed that the quest for higher education was not quite over. She joined the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and received her Master’s in Psychology and Education returning to GCW Srinagar. By 1961, she was Vice-Principal of GCW and a mother of 3 kids.
However, a major turning point in her life took place in early 1964, when she moved to Pakistan with her three children, making Peshawar as her new home. She joined the University of Peshawar (UoP) and with nothing short of a Herculean effort, she established the University College for Women, as a constituent college of UoP on July 24, 1964 as its first Principal, starting the institution with just 27 students, who were declined admission in the UoP. The College, located within the UoP campus, was renamed Jinnah College for Women in 1976.
The first class of the college was literally held under a tree as repairs to the vacated house of a professor (which was to be the premises of the college) were still being carried out. It was a matter of great pride when President Ayub Khan came for its official opening and commended her efforts. The students, in high gear were highly motivated and inspired by her. In addition to carrying out their academic pursuits, they were also asked to plant the seeds to grow vegetables and fruit and sell them in the market. The sales proceeds became part of the fund-raising efforts, that also included holding dramas (ticket sales), stitching/embroidery products, holding Meena Bazar etc., all used to help run the College.
When she retired in 1980, after 16 years in the institution, the number of students had risen to more than 1,700. She left a legacy of extraordinary brilliance, her inspired teaching and her passionate spirit.
JCW’s two-storied building consists of classrooms, lecture-theatres, laboratories, a library with two reading rooms, an office and a hall. The college has lawns, a botanical garden and a playground. The library has a collection of reference books, textbooks and books in specialized fields. Jinnah College for Women has been declared the best by the Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education (BISE), Peshawar and University of Peshawar. The tradition and culture of quality education, supporting poor but talented students driven by high energy momentum that Safia Hassan had cultivated and has clearly born fruit beyond one’s imagination. She coached and mentored with a vigor and dedication not often seen in teachers of her time in that area. If she was dedicated as a teacher, she was brilliant as a mentor and unparalleled as a school administrator.
Safia Hassan developed her own management standard for Educators:
E for Enthusiastic, D for Dedicated, U for Unwavering, C for Caring, A for Amicable, T for Trusting,
O for Organized, R for Respectful
After her husband passed away in 2009, Safia Hassan moved to Boston US where she now lives with her daughter, a retired physician. She recently celebrated her 100th birthday and is navigating life well, even during COVID times. Talking to her, one could easily get the impression from the glint in her eyes, that she could be looking for her next adventure!
To quote Henry Longfellow:
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.