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KU girls’ hostel residents demand removal of provost

By Perwez Abdullah

Karachi: Students living in the crowded and poorly-managed girls’ hostel at the University of Karachi (KU) have demanded the removal of their Provost and Warden because instead of helping them, both hostel officials have made their lives miserable.

The students who had come to the Vice-Chancellor’s (VC) office on Tuesday and were sitting on the ground while their representatives sought an audience with VC Prof. Pirzada Qasim, narrated their tales of woe to The News.

“Our Provost Dr Nasreen Aslam Shah, who is also the Director for the Centre of Excellence for Women Studies, uses filthy and threatening language if the students request her for some amenities,” said the spokesperson of the students. She is working towards her PhD.

The girls’ hostel has 104 rooms, including a sports room and four guest rooms, and can hardly accommodate 250 students adequately. “The sports room has been converted into a 12-bed room for as many girls. Four guest rooms are hosting 16 girls with scant amenities and furniture,” they said.

Another student, fearing reprisals from the Provost, said that the latter came at 9 pm and threatened students while making rounds of the hostel. “Once she said that we should not mess with her.

She warned us that she will make a call and 50 men will appear on the hostel gate. Last year, on August 14, a large number of male students rambled and danced at the gates making cat calls and hurling obscenities at the residents. We called her to inform her of the bedlam. Dr Shah laughed sarcastically and hung up. This is awful. We are thousands of miles away from our hearths and homes and this behaviour is disappointing,” she said gloomily.

The VC has asked the Provost to allot single rooms to the M.Phil and Ph.D students and to “try to manage the situation” until other arrangements are made to accommodate the increasing number of students. It has been decided that a hall that was used for functions in better days will be used to house the students. It means 20 students are destined to turn up in that hall.

Dr Shah had earlier written to the VC to allow her to ‘force’ old Somali students to allow their new counterparts to share their rooms through the KU ‘Security Force’. The idea was not accepted as it seemed too authoritarian and harsh in tone. Foreign Students Advisor Prof Kaleem Raza Khan wrote a note saying that instead of ‘forcingÂ’ the students to share the crammed rooms, they should be allowed to seek accommodation in the city.

A senior professor at the Arts Faculty, preferring to remain anonymous, agreed that the hostel was in a shambles but added some of the Pakistani students wanted to increase the ‘Curfew Period’ — the time they were supposed to return to the hostel. “Yes, the hostel was built more than three decades ago. The number of students coming from abroad and other cities of Pakistan has increased considerably but there is no expansion in the hostel space.

A new building that was to be built by now has been confined to the cold storage. KU has no money for a new hostel,” the professor said.

Dr Shah, however, denied the use of unbecoming language with the students. “The problem is space. Foreign student turn up from the airport demanding rooms and their Pakistani counterparts do the same. What do we do?

They have a problem with sharing,” she claimed. She also said that when she became a provost at the time when Dr Zafar Saieed Saify was the VC, she observed that girls would return at midnight. “I discontinued that practice and that was the reason why evening classes were shortened to terminate at 9 pm. We have 40 foreign students. The rest are from other parts Pakistan. Girls from northern areas account for 70 percent of the occupancy,” she said.

Dr Shah told The News that students pay only Rs200 per month for electricity, water and gas and Rs1,800 for lunch and dinner. “It is quite cheap considering the current inflation,” she maintained.
Source: The News
Date:1/28/2009

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