I Was Born To Be A Teacher! – Interview with Zafar Shakir

On 4th of October 1982 a child was born in Khur-Barmas, Gilgit. No one knew that this child would be very special in every essence of life, and would be one of the shining stars of not only Gilgit-Baltistan, but a pride for Pakistan as he proved his hidden talent, led the high platforms either as a host, guest, presenter, being a young leader in the field of education and youth related topics, and above all as one of the best teachers due to his amazing teaching style. His father named him Mohammad Zafar, now known as Zafar Shakir. From the very beginning, his parents saw eagerness in him to learn, to get to know and to lead the youth in positive and constructive ways.

Zafar ShakirHe got his primary education from Govt. Amphary High School, where he remained the topper over the levels from primary to 4th class. He got admission in the Govt Primary School in the 5th class, got the first position in the Primary Board Exam. Then he got into Govt High School, No.1, Gilgit, where he got better avenues to polish his skills and abilities , and  was taught by the best teachers of the town. From the very beginning of his educational career, Zafar Shakir has not only exercised his excellence in education, but also got high altitudes in co-curricular activities, like sports & games, speeches and debates, hosting at regional, national and international shows. He was considered the most expert in the speeches and debates as he earned high level by winning competitions held not only at GB, but also at national and international platforms.

Two times, in 1995, and 1997, while being a very young school student, he represented GB at national level, and proved to be one of the best speakers of the country. For his excellence in curricular and co-curricular activities, in 1998 Zafar Shakir got honored with the prestigious award “Nishan-e-Imtiaz” by the then Headmaster of High School No.1, Gilgit, Mr Mir Fazil Shah,  at the farewell party for the outgoing students of Matriculation. Then, he got admission in Intermediate at Public School and College Jutial, Gilgit, proved his talent and skills as the Head-boy of Iqbal house.

In 2001, after completing his Inter-level education, he went for English speaking course from NUML. After a great struggle, he completed his English courses, both – the Certificate and the Diploma (2001 & 2002) with distinction, he was awarded by the then ambassadors as one of the best English speakers and students of his batches.

On his return to Gilgit, he joined the Read Foundation School, Gilgit to teach English as a subject and language. From that point of note, the true spark of a teacher shined in him, and he soon thought to be a man made for teaching, as owing to his unique way of teaching, and for his motivating his students, belong to any color or creed, for co-curricular activities, Col. Hassan Memorial Society honoured him with the Gold-Medal and the best motivator.  While teaching at Read Foundation he continued his studies and did his BA from KIU, and joined Public Schools and Colleges, Jutial , Gilgit as a young teacher, but continued his education. He got admission in MA in English Literature and Linguistics in 2004 as the first batch of English at KIU. During his studies at MA level (2004-2006), in 2005 he got selected in the “First All Pakistan Youth Convention”, where, from all over the country, 252 youth represented their respective areas, which was a big achievement for him as well as for his institute to represent GB. He got selected as one of the best youth at the convention, thus awarded by the then Prime-Minister of Pakistan- Mr. Shaukat Aziz. Zafar Shakir continued working hard in his studies, and scored the highest marks of his MA English first batch at KIU, thus considered the top student of English. On the basis of his skills and excellence as a student and also for teaching from 2002 to 2007, he got offered for teaching at KIU, which made him student come teacher in the alma-matter.

In 2008, he got selected as the permanent faculty (BPS#18) of English Department at Karakorum International University, Gilgit. He has been serving as a lecturer, as the Head of Talent Hunt program, and had honour as the youngest to Head of English Department for some span of time. In 2011 he went for his M.Phil degree from IIUI. In the mean time of his interview for selection as student at International Islamic University (IIUI), he was offered for teaching some classes as a guest lecturer at IIUI, and so some other universities in the capital city as he has gained much fame for leading the International Conferences, and also organized workshops on leadership and communication skills.

Zafar Shakir

OEC:   What/who influenced you the most to become a teacher? Why did you choose education as a career?

My teachers influenced me a lot who taught me either at home or in various institutions, or some international scholars whom I have been inspired a lot. For instance, in my family my middle brother Mr. Muhammad Younus Khan, and my uncle Abdul Hafeez Shakir inspired me a lot due to their excellent way of teaching, and the knowledge they have, and deliver it is simply outstanding. Some of my teachers inspired me a lot too;  they are: Sir Abdul Hameed Lone, Sir Akhtar,  Sir Akber Ali,  Sir Zaheer, Sir Ali Ahmed Jaan, Sir Abbas, Sir Safdar, Miss. Farheen, Miss Naseema Kiayani,   Sir Mujeer, Sir Nawaz Khatak, Sir Walayat Khan, Sir Amin Zia, Sir Riaz Hussain Shah, Miss Nousheen Ali,  Sir Sheeraz, Sir Ayaz Afsar, Sir Safeer Awaan, Sir Mustafeez Alvi,  and Munawar Ghondal, and the international scholars who influenced were Sir Matthew Stott, Mr. Mike Godon, Mr. Chips,   Mr.  Ibrahim Lincon and Mr. Robert Frost.

OEC: What is the role of parents in the success of student?

 Well, the role of parents is crucial in upbringing of a person, because parents always seek well for their children. My parents have no doubt supported me at every level and every step of my life. They do not only encourage me whenever I succeed, but also stand with me in my failure, and assist me to come out from it.

OEC: How important are grades in one’s career? Do you think that grades are the only measure of someone’s talent?

In my opinion, honestly speaking,  grades are not that much important in one’s success, and you won’t agree with me for such a different idea; although they help one to get through to achieve  good positions in academics, and finally one can get some good job, but to me, hard work, devotion, dedication, honesty, integrity, truthfulness and  passion play a vital and pivotal role in one’s career, rather these characteristics can make one a successful leader in any field of life, and he/she can inspire others.

OEC: What is failure? Have you ever failed in your life? What have you learned from your failures?

Failure and success are two facets of a coin, and of course, I have been failed in some of the fields of life, and learnt from my failure, as it is said, and let me quote, “Our mistakes are our teachers”, so it is clear that from our mistakes and failures, we learn in fact. Literary speaking, failure make us strong , they make us rise again; so there is no shame to be failed, but one must realize and learn from the failure. He/she must throw away the weeds and rotten eggs from his/her life, and strive for success. If he/ she do so, success will surely kiss his/her feet.  

OEC: Are you planning on coming back to GB to serve your people?

I am the son of mountains, so I have to return to them sooner or later. Well, I am a permanent faculty at KIU, and I am on study leave to pursuit my M.Phil degree, which is in progress, and I will surely resume my services by coming September. I would love to go back to my native town (Gilgit) to serve the people of my community through education. You know what!!! I have an amazing vision, a dream to come through one day hopefully, either in my life or my students will surely make it true by establishing another university besides KIU, and KIU is of course doing an excellent job to educate our people, but the university I am dreaming to establish will surely open the doors to those students of Oxford and Cambridge to study at least a semester. I do hope, this will be one of the leading universities in the world; I know, readers might laugh to read such a big comment, and they might call it mere daydreaming, “Khayal Chouhdari’s dream”, but it is my vision, and yes it has to come true one day, I hope so, and I need the prayers of all my well-wishers to do so. It’s a herculean task though, yet it has to be achieved.

OEC: Are you satisfied with the educational standards of GB? What are your suggestions for the improvement of the education system in GB?

It’s a Chinese puzzle to talk to be satisfied with the educational system of GB.  You know, satisfaction creates further dissatisfaction, as  there is no limit for the improvement. Some areas/institutions of the GB surely give quality education and produce the best product, while a few of the institutions are not up to that mark, due to serious lack of facilities and financial constraints. There is of course a need for improvement, and for this purpose we need to work together, let the educated youth come forward and assist the weaker ones.

OEC: How do you see the initiative of OEC?

I am extremely delighted to know about the initiative taken by OEC in the development of education in GB. This organization is surely addressing the most important issue of GB, which is education; your team is doing a wonderful job, and I do appreciate.  The best thing about this organization is, it’s above all castes, creeds and religions, and for that, I must appreciate. I praise OEC for its unconditional and selfless services. My services whenever and wherever needed are with this organization, and I am wholly-solely ready to assist you to develop education which will surely help the people of GB to develop a peaceful, loving, caring, mosaic, and pluralistic society in GB.

OEC: Your message for the students of Gilgit Baltistan?

My dear GB students, you are the bright future of Pakistan at large and GB in particular. I ask you to kindly devote yourself to your studies. Please come out from your cocoons; some of you have been derailed from your right path due to the influence of some hijackers- the so-called friends around you, in fact they are your foes, as a result your fresh minds have been badly polluted, I am afraid, and please don’t mind for my being so direct, I know I have been a bit offensive though, yet I am sharing the pain that I feel about you and GB. Please reject sectarians, violence and hypocrisy. Do work-hard, as it is the success to every field of life. Be generous and dedicate yourself to what you opt for. Listen, life is a complex phenomenon my dear students and you will surely experience its ups and downs; learn from your mistakes. Contribute towards the betterment of the society whether it rains or shines. Do plan before you act; do learn to manage time. Keep your energy in positive and constructive activities. May God be with you my dear GB students!


From Hunza to Harvard

God has given man’s destiny in his own hands and he is the one to sketch it the way he pleases. The story of Mr. Sardar Karim is enough to inspire the youth of Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral that the backwardness of our areas does not actually restrain us from success; it is our own lack of courage and determination that holds us back. The success story of Sardar Karim is more than an inspiration to our society, giving us the lesson that a man himself is in charge of his future.

He was born in a village in Gilgit. A child like everybody in the high Himalayan valleys of Gilgit-Baltistan, he faced so many hardships, but unlike others, neither did he lose hope, nor he blamed others for the hurdles on his way, rather he kept on struggling… And finally, today he has made himself a shining pearl of Gilgit-Baltistan by becoming the  first person  from the region to receive World Bank scholarship to study at the world’s top academic institute, Harvard University of USA, which is a ‘factory’ of world leaders!.

Sardar Karim

Starting his primary education (from grade 1 to 5) at Aga Khan Diamond Jubilee School, Chikeskote and then continuing high schooling at Shaheen Boys Model School Danyore, he always remained among the high achieving students in his class. Based on his academic performance, he was attracted by the Aga Khan Higher Secondary School Gilgit, which serves as a ‘magnet’ to all brilliant youth of the region of G-B, where he studied from Pre-9th to 12th. During his time at AKHSS, he managed to achieve four consecutive Gold Medals in KIU Board Examinations. As recognition of his performance, he received Presidential Award (Aizaz-e-Sabqat) for Academic Excellence in 2006. After completing his intermediate education from G-B, the talented youth got successful in getting admission to Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) with a four years’ NOP scholarship (2006 to 2010) and this odyssey to Lahore from the rugged mountains of G-B presented the next phase of opportunities to the young man and he carried on his efforts, setting eyes on the opportunities to be availed. God helps those who help themselves; Mr. Sardar became the first person in the history of LUMS to go abroad for two exchange programmes during the 4 years. Out of hundreds of students, he was selected to represent Pakistan as an exchange student at Waseda University Tokyo, Japan, Fall-2008. And eventually in Fall-2009, he again got nominated for an event at Malardalen University in Sweden. The academic journey of Mr. Sardar ended at LUMS in 2010 with a BSc (Hons.) degree in Economics, and owing to his educational excellence, he was awarded with ‘Deans Honour List Award for earning Academic Distinction’.

After completing graduation, Mr.Sardar had to enter the practical life, which is seen as the beginning of a new journey; the journey to prove oneself as a productive citizen and not a burden on society. It is the part of life when one has to start reaping the fruit of all the inputs one gives throughout his educational career. Mr. Sardar had already got all his productivity levels up to the mark, and now he was a person not to hunt job, but to be hunted for the job! In 2010, he started working with Rural Support Programmes Network (RSPN), Islamabad and works there till date. Before that, he remained associated with various organizations like the State Bank of Pakistan, Aplix Corporation in Tokyo and numerous others. Recently, he has been offered Fullbright Scholarship for 2013-14. At the same time, he has been offered a Joint ‘Japan/World Bank Graduate Scholarhip’ as well, which is awarded to only eight candidates from thousands of applications from 140 World Bank borrower countries from all over the world. In Fall-2013, Mr. Sardar will be attending Harvard University’s John F Kennedy School of Government where he will study MPA/ID for 2 years. And this would be a big achievement for not only him, but for all of G-B. The two-year Master in Public Administration in International Development (MPA/ID) Program is designed to prepare the next generation of leaders in international development. It is an economics-centered, multi-disciplinary program, combining rigorous training in analytical and quantitative methods with an emphasis on policy and practice. Each academic year, a class of about 68 students gets enrolled in this selective program and Mr.Sardar would be one of them, representing Pakistan in world’s most prestigious university.

Sardar Karim’s life starts from the same area to which all of us belong; he experienced the same hindrances, the same issues, the same teaching faculty, facilities, and the same schools where all of us study. But none of those things deter his enthusiasm for success and, as said in the beginning, nobody and nothing can stop you if you, yourself, are determined to achieve something in life. Sardar’s message to the young, talented students of G-B and Chitral is to follow the four principles to have a successful life: ‘Dream high’, as it lets you think fearlessly and gives you a direction to move on, always ‘love your dream’ because it gives you the passion to follow your dream and be not distracted, ‘act consistently’ because that is the only way you can make your dream a reality and finally, ‘give your maximum’ because you don’t have to regret later. With these four principles fulfilled in one’s life, a person drags and bags success in life and destiny runs after him, not he!

It must be noted here that Mr. Sardar Karim is a good-will partner of the Organization for Educational Change (OEC). He expresses his confidence and trust in OEC, and hopes that the organization will play a greater role in shaping the future of the youth of Gilgit-Baltistan.

By Junaid Saleh Hayat
OEC Blog & Social Media Head


Orientation session held in Islamabad for newly appointed volunteers of OEC

The first orientation session of the new office bearers of the Organization for Educational Change (OEC) was held on 14th April 15, 2013 at Usmania Restaurant in Blue Area, Islamabad. The event started at 1:05pm with recitation of verses from the Holy Qur’an. As many as 28 members ensured their presence including the former President and founding member, Mr. Jibran Ali Hayat, along with other members of OEC M&A Council. The orientation session was aimed at enlightening the newly appointed members about the projects and working mechanism of OEC. The event included formal introduction of coordinators, respective head of departments and members with the peers of OEC. A brief overview was given in the shape of a video and presentation that highlighted evolution of OEC and its major achievements since its inception as an idea of a single magazine to a fully operational NGO. The incumbent President Mr. Syed Naveed Shah while welcoming the new office bearers gave a brief overview of OEC and its main objectives and major achievements in the form of ongoing successful projects, namely: Educure, Scholarhips, Discover GB, OEC Education Expo, OEC Helpline, OEC Blog. He stressed on the need of formulation and execution of innovative ideas to take OEC to new heights and set an example of how an organization can deliver maximum with limited resources. Addressing on the occasion, OEC’s newly elected Vice President, Mr. Imran Hunzai, briefly outlined the structure and hierarchy of OEC and briefed about the projects and initiatives of the organization. He then explained the structural formation and working mechanism of the organization in detail.

Later, a critical ‘question and answer’ session was conducted where the newly selected office bearers asked questions regarding the OEC and its future goals and came up with suggestions that could make improvements in the working of OEC as a dynamic organization. The chairperson of M&A Council, Mr. Naubahar Rafi, in his remarks thanked the members for their enthusiasm and commitment towards working for OEC. President OEC, Mr. Syed Naveed Shah, towards the end while reiterating the need for collective efforts to foster the goals of OEC, thanked the esteemed members especially, Ms. Asma Zafar, Mr. Imtiaz Ali, Ms. Bushra Ali, Mr. Nadeem Gul and Ms.Tajjali Abid for sponsoring the first meeting of the new office bearers of OEC. The meeting ended with a photo session of the new cabinet members.