The courtyard of the Habib Girls' School was bursting at the seams with around 1,800 students, teachers and alumni who came together at their alma mater on Tuesday to mark the conclusion of the year-long golden jubilee celebrations.
The festivities on the school's 50th year of foundation were brought to an end in a befitting manner by honouring two recent alumni - Afshan Hussain and Maleeka Mehmood - who secured first position all over the country in two successive higher secondary school certificate exams of the Aga Khan University Examination Board (AKU-EB).
"You have turned this school into an institution of excellence in the past five decades, not just in academics but also in sports, literary and cultural pursuits," said the school's third and incumbent principal, Nargis Alavi, who is keeping up with the dynamic leadership of the first two principals for the last 10 years.
For Hussain, who brought laurels home by securing first position in 2013-2014, the school where she had had spent the last 16 years of her life held a very special place in her memories. "I'm essentially a product of this school and all these memories make this school a very special place and equally rewarding," said Hussain, a Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Programme fellow, while talking to The Express Tribune. "Over the decades, the school has earned repute to the extent that now we just have to utter 'Habibian' to win others' attention."
Mehmood, who secured first position in 2012-2013, agreed with Hussain as she maintained that the time spent and efforts put by the teachers in her grooming played a significant role in what she had become and achieved so far. "When I was a child, my mother used to tell me that parents bring children to earth from the skies, but the teachers are the ones who help ascend them to the skies yet again," said Mehmood. "It was all very true."
All four sections of the school, pre-primary, primary, secondary and higher secondary, paid tribute to their alma mater in different ways during Tuesday's ceremony. While the higher secondary students chronologically reminded the dynamic leadership and the founder family for their patronage and active involvement for the past 50 years, the secondary students enacted life at school as well as the success accentuated by the dedicated faculty that the school was always proud of.
The pre-primary children came with an icing on the cake - a magnificently staged birthday song with a squad cheerleading the audience's enthusiastic approval. The primary section students very emotionally revived the vision and mission of the school by singing 'Hamari inteha-e-shouq'.
To Muslim Habib, a managing trustee of the Habib Education Trust, it seemed just like yesterday when the school opened its doors on August 19, 1964, with eight teachers who would teach the first batch of 80 students. Adeeba Kamal, who would later become the school's second principal in 1989, was the very first teacher to be appointed, while Batool Hussain was the first student to be on the rolls.
Fifty years on, the school with around 1,800 students enrolled at its pre-primary up to higher secondary sections has emerged as one of the leading educational institutions for girls, owing to the commitment of the trustees as well as the tireless efforts put by the first principal, Zubaida Dossal, who continues to guide the school with her expertise and experience.
The first batch of students took the Board of Secondary Education, Karachi's exams in the year 1970, which also marked the election of Zubeida Murad as the first head girl - a practice that even continues today in order to instil the democratic values during the most impressionable years of students' lives.
Since 2007, the school switched to the AKU-EB and helped, according to Alavi, "allow her students to become independent learners".
Over the years, the design and colour scheme of the school's uniform has seen many changes until it finally returned to the original beige kameez, white shalwar and dupatta with brown shows. In 2010, the institution achieved another milestone with the inception of a higher secondary school. Beginning with the three disciplines of pre-engineering, pre-medical and commerce, the higher secondary school also introduced humanities in the year 2012.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 20th, 2014.
Correction: An earlier version of the article incorrectly noted the name of the second principal of the school. The error is regretted.