Murtaza Jafri took charge as principal of the country’s oldest art institution, the National College of Arts, this week.
Shabnam Khan, Sajjad Kausar, Bashir Ahmed and Fauzia Qureishi have served as acting principals in the last three years.
Jafri assumed charge as principal on August 28 after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif approved his appointment. The decision had been pending since former principal Nazish Ataullah retired in 2010.
Jafri says now that he has taken charge, he intends to restore the college’s prestige. “I am glad I am now in a position where I can actually make a difference and set wrongs right,” he says.
Jafri says he is aware of the challenges. “I have been among those who tried to get the issues resolved,” he says. “The heads of departments and the faculty know me well.”
He says since he has been a part of the faculty, there can be no communication gaps. He says communication failure had resulted in several problems in the past.
Jafri says he is currently focusing on the disputes involving contract employees who are demanding extensions or seeking permanent positions. He plans to take up the case with the Cabinet Division.
In June last year, the NCA Administrative Staff Association called a five-day strike, demanding that all contract employees be made permanent.
Jafri says his 26-year tenure at the college will help him face the challenges.
Jafri is an alumnus of the institute. He joined the college as a lecturer of Fine Arts in 1988 soon after completing his bachelors.
He did his masters’ in Fine Arts from the Chelsea College of Art and Design followed by a doctorate from the University of East London.
In 1991, he became an assistant professor.
He has also served as registrar of the college from 1994 to 2007. Since 2008, he has been heading Masters of Arts (Honours) in Visual Arts and Traditional Arts programs as director.
Jafri has also served as planning and coordination director at the Pakistan National Council of Arts.
Jafri says he is excited about the time ahead. He says he wants to set up an exchange programme for students. “I want to create links between our students and art students abroad,” he says.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 30th, 2013.