To visit alma-mater essentially evokes a sentiment of tryst; the feeling of infatuation is nostalgically reminiscent of bygone days, yet somehow it relates to the present time as well. It is afresh and vivid both in collection and remembrance. Government College Lahore (GCL) is one of the oldest seats of learning in the subcontinent. It possesses splendid heritage, proud history and timeless traditions. For too long and for too many, it is, and it has been, a pilgrimage place; it has impacted, shaped and influenced scores of individuals, since the time of its inception.

The alumni of GCL are famously called Ravians –a proud epithet that bespeaks the grandeur and glory of the institution to whom they owe. The term Ravian is originated from Ravi which signifies a transmitter who bequeaths and transfers the illustrious traditions, timeless values, vast knowledge to the posterity for their enlightenment. This spirit to transfer knowledge is the core of Ravians’ traditions. The rationale is to spread the flame of knowledge to others so as to light up the fire of curiosity and acquisition of knowledge in a broader scope.

The majestic building, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, shows the sign of weathering agents, yet is intact and preserved in its unmolested form. Though the structure is the relic of the past, yet stands with an awe-inspiring presence in the heart of the city – envious and compelling in appearance and appeal. Since 1864, the Government College Lahore has spectacularly witnessed different transformative eras: colonialism partition and separate state. It has always been known for its liberal values where only knowledge deserves merit. In 2002 it was upgraded and granted the status of a university which mandated it to embark upon research and innovation in the realm of knowledge both in the fields of science and arts.

The environment of Government College Lahore is heterogeneous; it acts as a crossroad of divergent ethnic identities where students from different parts of Pakistan huddle together to seek knowledge and enlightenment. This cosmopolitan environment creates amity, cooperation, respect, and a feeling of coexistence. Discussions and discourses in the campus enable them to leave behind the prejudices and stereotypical thinking that otherwise clouds their judgement. They learn to respect difference of opinion without being disagreeable. This characterising feature has been instrumental in strengthening federation and to ward off fissiparous tendencies. The mutual learning enables them to find similarities and iron out differences to chart away that leads to inclusion and prosperity.

 The institution takes pride in its enduring traditions and timeless values and aims at instilling these ideals that define the character of a human being; respect for dissenting voice –no matter how hard and difficult it is to resist–, the audacity to express opinions freely without any fear, to learn from others with attention and respect so as to dismantle the monument of vanity and ignorance. With an ardent belief that seeking knowledge and learning is a continuous process, and this realisation that we can become better only when we are ready to admit our follies and determined to correct it. A sense of discipline and responsibility that just improved life is worthy of credence.

The institution has a proud and illustrious history of producing eminent individuals who had a lasting impact. Allama Muhammad Iqbal, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Doctor Abdul Salam stand testimony to the brilliance of its alumni. Their legacy and contribution stir yearning among the young students to follow their footsteps and make their lives better. Even, these days, the ubiquitous presence of Ravians in civil service, judiciary and armed forces signifies their role in the policy formation at the highest level and adds to the credential of the institution.

The culture of vibrant and active societies is the hallmark of Government College Lahore. These societies provide a platform to the aspirants to polish their innate talent by participating in curricular activities. Debating and dramatic club has earned numerous laurels by fielding contests at the national level. A graduate can harness his true potential when he zealously participates in capacity building and confidence boasting activities during his stay at the university. Besides this, recently, an endowment fund has emerged as an example of trust and credibility. It is designed to support the financially poor and marginalised students by rallying philanthropic alumni and affluent members of the society. The fund works under the basic principle that the donated money is never spent, only the income earned on its investment is used.

Although the institution has a tantalising appeal to pool together the best and the brightest students from all the spectrum, yet it is losing its lustre nowadays. It is much to do with the overall fate of the education in Pakistan. However, some areas can be improved with proper overhauling. Unfortunately, at the present time, it has woefully failed to woo the scholars and intellectuals of international stature. It is mainly because it is unable to offer remuneration in lieu of their services, corresponding to the market trends. Resultantly they are forced to choose private institutions that offer salaries of prodigious proportion in accordance with their hard work and investment. In this regard, it is necessary that the Government should dole out money to meet the expenses and to improve the financial capacity of the institution.

In the end, an academic institution remains its relevance, where knowledge is not merely disseminated but produced. Merely churning out old-fashioned and oft-repeated ideas cannot auger well. It is time to invest more in research and production of innovative ideas to carve a niche in the pedagogical forum.

 

The author is an officer of Pakistan Police  Service.

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