A Briton who spreads knowledge in Pakistan

By Awais Saleem, IANS
Sunday, October 24, 2010

ISLAMABAD - From the plains of Punjab province to the rugged mountains in Waziristan, a former British major has been spreading knowledge for more than 60 years in Pakistan with a missionary zeal.

“What could be nobler than to open up minds and create a world of possibilities?” Major Geoffery Langlands asked in an interview published in the Dawn newspaper Sunday.

Langlands arrived in the undivided India in 1944 to serve the British Army but decided to stay back after partition and made Pakistan his home.

Langlands taught at Lahore’s prestigious public school, Aitchison College, for almost 25 years. He remembers former Pakistani cricketer Imran Khan as “one of his best and most ambitious students”.

“We knew that he will make a top class cricketer when he was only 13,” Langlands recalled.

For his services in education, Langlands was awarded the “Order of Saint Michael and Saint George” at the British High Commission in Islamabad in a colourful ceremony.

The award goes to individuals with distinguished services overseas. “There is no one other more deserving,” said British High Commissioner Adam Thomson.

The celebrations also marked Langlands’ 93rd birthday. “I feel like a young man,” he told the gathering.

It made him sad when he lost one of his best students in former Pakistani president Farooq Leghari. Leghari, who dismissed Benazir Bhutto’s government in 1996, died in Rawalpindi city Wednesday.

The ex-major has also been awarded the Hilal-e-Imtiaz by the Pakistani government. After spending 25 years at Aitchison, he was asked to give up his comfortable job at Atchison to take up a difficult but rewarding job in North Waziristan, a challenge he could not refuse.

“More than 300 students from Razmak Cadet College made into the army as commissioned officers — 17 became lieutenant colonels. They are some of the finest men today,” he said, proudly remembering the school where he was principal for 10 long years.

Langlands went on to establish Langlands School in Chitral town in northwest Pakistan where he has been living for more than 20 years now. The school has over 900 pupils aged between 4 and 18, more than a third girls.

Langlands, however, does not approve of the hate material against India included in the curriculum and taught to children in classes.

“Anything that preaches hatred should certainly not be there,” he said, and hoped that “things would improve one day”.

“I used to tell my students at Atchison that they came from influential and rich families and they must work for others, not just themselves. Some took that the advice and have done good work,” he said.

Filed under: Education, India

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