Education, Development, and Change
Email Dr. Shahid Siddiqui

Monday, July 2, 2012

Inspirational Leadership

Dr. Kazim Bacchus died on 22 March. He was my mentor and my friend who, in his invisible way, left a tremendous impact on my life.  Dr. Bacchus, a highly respected name in International Education, was the founder director of the Institute for Educational Development of the Aga Khan University who remained there from 1993 to 1997 and in this short time, with his vision and hard work, made it a distinguished place for teacher education. He was a mentor and a friend of a number of people in different parts of the world.  Kazim was indeed inspiration incarnate.  A great motivator who demonstrated that leadership with the tinge of affection can always do wonders. 
An Internal view of IED campus

Robert Redfield in his widely acclaimed book The Celestine Prophecy suggests that there is a metaphysical design in this universe where things exist without any obvious explanation.  This includes our meeting with different people in our lives.  Meeting with Kazim was such an incident in my life.  I was based in Islamabad when one day I got a phone call asking about my availability for a dinner-meeting with Kazim.  Though I had no idea about the background of this meeting, I agreed to it.  If my memory doesn’t fail me we met in Marriot hotel in Islamabad.   Kazim was in his favorite light blue safari suit, a heavily built gentleman with a smile on his lips and a special glitter of kindness in his eyes.  This was my first meeting with my would be mentor.  During the dinner he started talking about IED project for teacher education.  His voice was imbued with excitement when he was sharing his vision with me.  Until then I didn’t know about the purpose of this meeting. 

Then came the punch line, Kazim in his own unassuming style asked me to join his dream land IED.  It came as a surprise for me.  Leaving Islamabad and going to Karachi was uprooting the whole life style.  I thanked him and told him that perhaps it won’t be possible for me to join him in Karachi.  He waved his hand on his curly hair, smiled and said, “Why don’t you come to our conference and stay there for a couple of days and observe for yourself”.  I had no option but to say yes.  On this note we shook hands and I said goodbye to him.  On my way back home I was thinking about the glitter of kindness in his eyes and the soft smile on his lips.  I could feel a pull.  The magic had started working. 
During my stay in Karachi for the conference I saw the beautiful compact set up of IED, read a paper in the conference, and met with a number of people around.  Three persons who would be playing an import role in my stay in Karchi were Muhammad, Allan, and Sadru.   During the short stay I made the important decision of my life to move to Karachi.  When I told Kazim about my decision, he smiled.  I could see a sparkle in his eyes as if he was saying, “I knew it, all along”.
Moving to Karachi was not an easy task, though later I became fond of the cool evenings of Karachi.  It was the initial period of IED and we used to get students from a number of different countries.  Similarly the courses were taught jointly with the faculty of University of Toronto and University of Oxford.  We had our first official meeting in Kazim’s office where he told me that I would be responsible for the English courses which were being taught in collaboration with the faculty of University of Toronto.  Kazim shared with me that planning is a key factor in success.  He asked me whether I was ready to go to Toronto for joint planning sessions there.  Being an old student of University of Toronto I gladly accepted this offer and went to Toronto where I met with the prospective faculty and planned the course.  Now when I think about that visit I realize that it was a great motivational boost for a new comer to a new organization. 

He was such a motivator. Conversing with him on any topic was a unique learning experience.  Even the faculty meetings, which are usually considered to be dull and drab activity, would turn into learning experience in the presence of Kazim.    Kazim was an epitome of eastern notion of scholarship that underlines humility.  He was a humble and most unassuming person.  As a true mentor he would never out rightly discard your ideas.  He would rather listen to you and in most of the cases would encourage your ideas and give them such philosophical meaning that you would feel elevated.  This was the secret of his leadership.  He would make his colleagues feel important.  Like a true leader he developed a number of people into leaders by giving them requisite confidence, by training them in a subtle way, by encouraging them to take on new initiatives and by celebrating their successes.
Allan Wheeler, professor at University of Brock and once Kazim’s student, recalls one expression that Kazim used in his class, “Any successful change in education in the developing world context must be forged on anvil of reality”. He always stuck to this maxim.  He was of the opinion that change in educational circles in Pakistan can only be meaningful if we manage to create a ripple in the mainstream schools.  That is why he would lay a special emphasis on the liaison with public schools.  Kazim was a great believer in the private public partnership.  He was not an arm chair director.  He would rather go to the field and meet with people.  I still remember one sultry day of Karachi summer when Kazim, Muhammad, and I went to a public school to a function to meet with their teachers and students.  Kazim was sitting in a car whose air conditioner was not working. Throughout the function he remained there, conversed with the teachers and students with his typical smile. 
IED was an English medium institution. Some students from far flung areas would feel it difficult to converse or write in English language.  Kazim’s attitude to them was not that of scorn.  He would make special efforts to assist them in their linguistic problems by making arrangements for them.  He was sure that it would be these participants who would bear the flag of IED.  And how true he was! 
Kazim after serving IED for more than three years left for Canada where he was working as Professor Emeritus in the University of Alberta.  Though he left Pakistan but he remained connected with people in Pakistan.  In his last days he was confined to his wheel chair.  But even wheel chair could not stop him from reading and writing.  A few months back I wrote to him, asking him to write a flap for my book.  I knew he was very sick.  After two days he sent me the flap.  This flap was my last contact with my mentor.  Even in his last words he encouraged, appreciated, and motivated me.
Now that he no more exists in physical form, he will always be there for me as a guiding light who taught me that leadership is not just assertiveness; it is much more than that.  It is vision, it is kindness, it is concern for others, it is caring, and it is sharing.  The real magic lies in sincerity and affection.  The magic whose spell never breaks.  Kazim you certainly knew that magic.
Source: Siddiqui, S. (2010). Rethinking Education in Pakistan.  Karachi: Paramount Publishing Enterprise

1 comment:

  1. Excellent work Dr. Siddiqui its wonderful dedication to Dr. Kazim Bachhus.