One can draw inspiration from the kinetic force of this Vice Chancellor who takes attempts to cycle or bike down to his office. Lt. Gen. Zameer Uddin Shah, VC of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) with all high spirit plays tennis with his students and instills leadership skills. “Your attitude towards life depends on your living conditions,” stresses vibrant Shah about his challenge to create decent facilities for students. He further highlights that wheels of regulatory regime move very slowly and this affects good projects to bloom. Q. Race continues to be significant issue on campuses. How is AMU protecting the religious freedom of Muslim students? A. I strongly feel that discrimination is ingrained in human nature. If you are from Rampur and you have to choose anyone for job, then you will recruit someone from your native Rampur. So discrimination is there, but getting discriminated is less educated. If you are educated and stand taller than your competitors, then you are not discriminated. There are two colored races in North America - South Asians and Blacks. South Asians are not discriminated because they are backed by education, and why blacks discriminated? It is because they have not made stress to education. In the same way, Muslims are lagging behind in India. The standard statement you get from Muslims is discrimination. 80% students are Muslims at AMU. So my mission is to educate the community, transform their lives. We take students right from kindergarten, and after 10+2 they can join AMU, be it coed or women’s college. AMU has secular character which provides education to students from all communities and races, but we follow Muslim ethos.Q. Vice Chancellor is the real leader of the University. How do you champion the interests of your students? A. I used to cycle or bike down to my VC office. I play games with my students either tennis or riding. And this equation helped me to motivate the young blood easily. You see real desires and aspirations when you stand close to them. Students need little bit of leadership, when you walk together with them it ignites energy to do better. My biking was setting a trend on campus until I got knocked down on road. Interestingly, seeing me a lot of professors took out their bikes.
Q. India needs good leaders to change systemic disorder prevailing in certain sectors. What’s your message? A. The time has come for Indian students. The difference between the age of your leaders and you is just 40 years. Your leader’s average age is 65 years and your average age is 25 years. You must take hold of things. The democratic advantage window is only 10 years. So if you will not grab this opportunity now then you will never get it again. Ultimately, your democratic advantage will become democratic disadvantage. Q. One of the striking points of good universities is residential character. So how far has AMU accomplished in accommodating students? A. I feel your attitude towards life depends on your living conditions. So my greatest challenge is to create decent facilities for students to live in the university. Our university’s major challenge is over-crowding. This university could only accommodate 7000 residential students, now we have squeezed in 15,000 students. We have got special grant of 150 crores from government, which helped in constructing residence hall for 1500 girls.
Q. Barring conventional programmes, any rare course deserves worth a mention? A. A unique programme is the “Bridge Course” for Madarsa students. This one year course is meant to prepare bright Madarsa students to compete and qualify for entrance into AMU. It is an effort to harness the talent of Madarsa students and also possibly nudge Madarsas to modernize their syllabi.
Q. The role of good education in the knowledge economy is crucial. Can India achieve aspiration of having world class universities? A. I have visited universities in US and I feel that we are 100 years behind. We are still in the blackboard and chalk stage. I want to immediately create 100 smart classrooms. The invention flavor is missing in our universities. Some universities show mountain of researches, but the real question is it productive enough? Does it benefit mankind? The agriculture department must spearhead the second agriculture revolution in the country. After the IT revolution, nanotechnology must be the next revolution. Medicine needs radical attention. So every sector needs phenomenal change, which can come only from the base of educational institutions. My aim is to create a system where laptop is available for every student – where they can play and sleep with their ideas. So a world class university is an institution which is a “Brand name” for excellence in research, education and co-curricular activities. Q. What should be the real task of modern educator and student? A. Teachers have to change their mindsets - from fixed to growth mindset. Plagiarism has become a major problem in Indian education. Research is not leading to any tangible innovations/inventions. The quality of research to a large context depends on the proper guidance, committed supervision of teachers and positive delivery of students. There are cases where all good researches are waiting for regulatory approvals. The wheels of regulatory regime move very slowly. It requires several years to get projects sanctioned. We are simply buying time to develop our societies. Education should prepare students to be equipped to face the challenges of life.
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