St Joseph’s Convent remembers former headmistress, Shafiqa Fikree, one year on

Published: November 24, 2010
Sr Zinia Pinto (in the wheelchair) holds Ruqaiya Fikree’s hand at the memorial for her sister Shafiqa. Also pictured are new teachers, Mrs Minhas, Muna Kazi Pathan, Naseema Kapadia, Marvi Memon, Sr Julie Pechuho, Farhana Mowjee, Aileen Soares, Seema Khan, Suroor Akbar, Sr Margaret and Ms Siddiqui. PHOTO: EXPRESS

Sr Zinia Pinto (in the wheelchair) holds Ruqaiya Fikree’s hand at the memorial for her sister Shafiqa. Also pictured are new teachers, Mrs Minhas, Muna Kazi Pathan, Naseema Kapadia, Marvi Memon, Sr Julie Pechuho, Farhana Mowjee, Aileen Soares, Seema Khan, Suroor Akbar, Sr Margaret and Ms Siddiqui. PHOTO: EXPRESS

KARACHI: It has been a year since the former headmistress of St Joseph’s Convent High School, Shafiqa Fikree – better known as ‘senior Fikree’ – passed away. Her death came as a shock to the school and hundreds of her former students who are scattered across the globe.

On Tuesday, Ms Fikree’s 50 years of excellence in education were remembered at a simple ceremony. Her picture adorned a white table, with white flowers and a white candle in the Cambridge section’s corridor. “Pure, just like her,” remarked longtime English General and Literature teacher Faiza Kazi as soon as the candle was lit.

The students and staff then observed two minutes of silence in her memory.

This is the same corridor Ms Fikree would walk down, passing classes VI and VII, to arrive at her Literature and Economics classroom. The tall bay windows open into this green-tiled corridor. It was here that Ms Fikree would leave books by the window sills with a little chit of paper inside bearing your name. She used to pick books for individual students and literally deliver them to their classroom, just to encourage them to read.

“Now girls,” she would say while removing her spectacles, folding them over and laying them to rest by their lanyard. “Was the dog black because it was hot? Or was the dog black because it was its colour…” This was a discussion on the rabid dog Atticus shoots in Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. This was her way perhaps of making the girls pay attention to this particular detail, dissect it; a black dog in literature can be read as a symbol for the devil coming in to town or as an omen.

Ms Fikree was never judgemental. When the girls, forced to come for Saturday makeup classes, took advantage of the window of opportunity and added colourful dupattas and earrings to their uniform, there were some rumblings from the principal’s office. But Ms Fikree supported them: “I’m more interested in how you think,” she told them after the battle was won, “not in what you wear”.

The women who came to the memorial were full or memories. The former students included journalist Zubeida Mustafa, Farhana Mowjee and MNA Marvi Memon. “Ms Fikree was the embodiment of the perfect teacher,” said Mowjee in her address. “She was a perfectionist and detail-oriented, but not boring. She welcomed all opinions, even dissenting ones.”

Naseema Kapadia, the current headmistress, recalled how Ms Fikree made her feel introspective. “While I was working in the male-dominated corporate world, I thought I was efficient and very professional. But when I joined St Joseph’s, I realised my competency and efficiency was nothing in comparison to Miss Fikree’s,” she said with a smile.

Shafiqa Fikree Award for Academic Excellence

For the first time in the school’s history, prizes were distributed to excelling students of classes VI to XI. The Shafiqa Fikree Award for Academic Excellence was conferred upon outgoing student Rija Ghazanffar – not only for her academic achievements in her O’ Levels but also for voluntarily looking after Ms Fikree’s library after she was gone.

The prizes were distributed to students who not only came first, second or third, explained Kapadia. “But it is also for students who have progressed in their studies.”

Zubeida Mustafa, in her address after the prize-distribution ceremony, said that St Joseph’s Convent continued to be a rock of stability in the lives of generations of women. “The school inspires confidence, admiration and respect. And with this, it maintains that delicate balance of continuity and change.”

She said Ms Fikree was the best teacher she had ever known. “She understood all the girls so well. She knew what education was all about.”

Published in The Express Tribune, November 24th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (19)

  • Mariam Sabri
    Nov 24, 2010 - 9:49AM

    Grreat job, Neha! Very well-written :)Recommend

  • H
    Nov 24, 2010 - 11:51AM

    good job neha! makes me miss school way too much :)Recommend

  • Anam Javed
    Nov 24, 2010 - 3:25PM

    Thanks for this neha. Ms. Fikree had a major hand in shaping who I am now. Will never forget her.Recommend

  • Shafak Sajid
    Nov 24, 2010 - 3:35PM

    God job Neha. :) Recommend

  • Mehwash Ansari
    Nov 24, 2010 - 3:35PM

    Thank you Neha! Ms. Fikree will, indeed, always be remembered…and her sweet window-sill-books….Recommend

  • Nov 24, 2010 - 4:52PM

    Neha Thank you from SJC. IT was an article well written and you were able to mantain the sanctity of the ocassio.The article will enable all St Josephines around the globe to know yhat this great person was recognized for her immense contribution to education.

    Thnk you all for your presence and the idea of donating books something that was very dear to her is a great idea. We have already started to put the books in the area that we have decided to call the the”Shafiqa Fikree Wing”
    Through the column of your paper We thank you and also Maher Best regards to her

    Naseema KapadiRecommend

  • aesha
    Nov 24, 2010 - 8:24PM

    This just made me cry.

    i miss her so much.

    This was brilliantly written. Thankyou, for this piece :)Recommend

  • Marium
    Nov 24, 2010 - 9:18PM

    Ms Fikree has left a mark on all the students she has taught. Today when I stand up to teach in front of students, I try to imitate her discipline, her regal profile, her dignified manner and her integral values. She was and still is a true inspiration.

    Thank you for this article Neha. It has ignited some unforgettable memories.Recommend

  • Aqusa Farooqui
    Nov 25, 2010 - 2:39AM

    Good job Neha… Ms. Fikree has left an indelible mark on our lives, and I will love to share that since I’m studying economics, I know she is a part of who I am just by thinking about the way I make my graphs, the way I organize my answers and the little little things that I can recall from her typed out notes. Not to forget, the stream of red marks and zeros on our exam papers… I will never forget, none of us will!
    Thanks, for making this effort you all!Recommend

  • Jodi Menezes
    Nov 25, 2010 - 2:58AM

    It’s amazing how reading about Miss Fikree, still gets me choked up and teary-eyed. Very well written! We will always love you Miss Fikree!Recommend

  • Urooba Agha
    Nov 25, 2010 - 3:46AM

    this is speechless….!well done..i miss her soo much!:'(Recommend

  • Nov 25, 2010 - 7:36PM

    Neha thank you so much for the article. I don’t think many of us would be in the places where we are today without SJC, it’s teachers and Ms Fikree. Your article reminded me of all those busy afternoons when Ms Fikree would take a few minutes out to take our books out so we could have them before we left for home on the school bus. Recommend

  • Kimberly D'Souza
    Nov 25, 2010 - 9:01PM

    Beautiful piece, Neha. I can’t believe it has already been a whole year. Just the other day I was thinking of her Economics and Literature classes and how sometimes she would suddenly pause and look out the window on her right, trying to figure out how best to explain a certain concept to us. She was the life and soul of the Cambridge Section and it still is very difficult to imagine St. Josephs without her.

    We love you Ms Fikree, and will remain forever indebted to you for all that you’ve done for us. Thank you for being such an inspiration. Recommend

  • Shehla
    Nov 25, 2010 - 9:02PM

    Thank you for this!! Yes, reading it did bring tears to my eyes…
    There are so many fond memories of Ms. Fikree, that each one of us carries.
    Her “karack” white shalwar and sleeveless kameez, way back in the 70’s and my 4F in bold red on my geography tests. And yes the Saturday classes.
    Many of us have teachers like Ms. Fikree to thank for the success we have achieved in our academic, professional, and maybe even in our personal lives. With love and respect here is to you Ms. Fikree!!!Recommend

  • Sehar Shamsuddin
    Nov 25, 2010 - 9:42PM

    Thank you for this commemoration for a truly brilliant human being! Her teachings will shape our lives forever. peace.Recommend

  • Farhana Mowjee
    Nov 26, 2010 - 2:46PM


    That was so well reported and the photograph was so well chosen – I loved being a part of the ceremony – thank you for focusing so beautifully on her.Recommend

  • Raazieh Abbas
    Nov 26, 2010 - 11:07PM

    Miss Fikree was truely a great educationalist, she understood what each child was capable of achieving and the best way they could be encouraged in reaching their goals. St. Josephs can never be the same without her. She will always be fondly remembered!

  • Anonymous
    Nov 27, 2010 - 2:05PM

    she died i didnt know ????? Recommend

  • Tabinda Hasan
    Dec 4, 2010 - 2:05AM

    Wonderful article and beautifully written, Neha!
    She will always be remembered with fond memories & her crisp sense of humour.
    Thank you, reading this made me really happy :DRecommend

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