Shaukat Ali Sahib, BA, DipEd, LLB, MA, Phd, one of the most respected educators in Fiji, has died in Melbourne, Australia.
His parents were bought to Fiji as indentured labourers to work in the CSR farms. His father, Kasim Sahib arrived in 1916 and his mother Subbamma Reddy arrived in 1917. CSR arranged their marriage and settled them in the Top Line Barrack in Lautoka.
On completing the indenture agreement in 1920, they leased 20 acres from CSR at Yalava in the Sigatoka Valley . Shaukat Sahib was born on February 25, fifth in a family of eight sons and four daughters.
There was no school anywhere close to Yalava at the time so his father sold up and moved the family to Lautoka in 1928.
With the help of CSR his father managed to get the job of farmer’s instructor working under Reverend Piper of the Methodist Mission. All the children attended the Methodist Mission school in Lautoka.
A few years later his father got a lease of twenty acres in Naviago, Drasa and later became an instructor at the Drasa Training Farm, teaching Fijians to farm sugarcane.
Young Shaukat started school in 1934 at Vitigo Madarsa learning Urdu and Arabic because his father wanted him to become a moulvi.
The Madarsa closed in 1937 and in 1938 he joined Lovu Sangam School.
In 1944 he went to Natabua Indian Secondary School and completed his secondary education in three years, passing the Cambridge Junior Exam in 1945 and Cambridge School Certificate in 1946.
He wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer and attend Otago University but because he did no science at Natabua he was advised to attend high school year 6 in New Zealand.
He needed a recommendation from the Director of Education, who refused and suggested he enrol at Nasinu Teachers Training College. He turned the offer down.
In 1947 he started as a costing clerk at Millers Ltd in Lautoka, because his parents had no money to send him to University overseas.
In 1948 Swami Rudrananda Maharaj helped him get a loan from the Sangam to pay for a university education and the Bank of NSW obtained a student visa for New Zealand. He joined Wellington Technical College and in 1948 he passed the University Entrance Exam, joined Victoria University of Wellington and graduated with a BA in 1952 and a MA, DipEd in 1953.
Interest in teaching
He was always interested in teaching and spent 1954 teaching at Shri Vivekananda High School and then founded Tilak High School serving as Principal till 1961.
In 1955 he wrote to the Director of Education asking to start a secondary school in Lautoka. The letter was ignored, so with some friends he started classes for form three and four in rented premises in Ram Autar’s Building.
The director of Education threatened court action. After three months, five MLCs came and said the Director had agreed to give a licence to operate as a school, but that he had to close for one day.
He instructed the children to bring their religious books to school the following Monday.
When the Education Officer came to check, the children were separated into Christian, Hindu and Muslim groups and reading their books.
The next day Gordon Roger, Deputy Education Director phoned to say a licence had been issued for him to start Lautoka Tutorial College. On May 4, 1955 he transferred the school to Bharatiya Mitra Mandall and named it Tilak High School. He was assisted in doing this by M S Koya, Mohammed Saddiq Khan, Kaji Hanif, Shah Mohammed and M N Naidu.
The Education Department gave no financial support till 1981. The teachers were paid from school fees and donations. S B Patel, R V Patel and Magijbhal Arjun gave him loans as well.
He personally raised over 18,000 pounds in three months for the school building, next to the Coronation Church.
Tilak was a respected school, held in high esteem. Many well known people served on the Board of Governors. After his return from India in 1963 he became Principal of Lautoka Muslim High School for two years.
In 1955, Sir Mohammed Zafrulla Khan (Member of the Viceroy’s Cabinet in India)and the UN President of the General Assembly, came to Fiji and he was asked to be his personal assistant, serving for seven days. He spoke about his ambition to build a school at the Park Estate.
At the airport on his departure Sir Mohammed said to him “Mr Ian Thomson will call you in a few days”.
Sir Ian Thomson called to say “We have been asked to find a job for you. There are three jobs in the Education Department, principal of Nasinu Teacher’s College, principal of Labasa College and director of Derrek Technical Institute, you can choose any” he told the director in Suva he wanted to start a Secondary School in Nadi and the Director said “Go ahead”.
He founded the Fiji Education Society, did all the paperwork and appointed three trustees, negotiated to buy the Park Estate, converted the front three rooms of the residential building into classrooms and began classes in February 1966.
At the end of the year they produced a 100 per cent pass in the Cambridge Junior Certificate Exam.
The next year the roll climbed to 196 and it continued to grow. In 1979 Seventh Form was introduced. Jai Ram Reddy helped by convincing the Ministry to set the Exam Paper for the school.Nadi College became a coveted institution in Fiji. Recently, with the approval of Dr Sahib, it became a Vocational School.
From the start the building programme kept pace with increasing student numbers, financed by fees, donations, building grants and funds from other sources and was controlled by a Board of Governors served on a voluntary basis by many respected citizens.
He said “I was able to do whatever little I could simply because I was given a free hand to plan, execute and manage the projects as well as find the money for them”
During his life Dr Sahib was chairman of the Teachers Union, Lautoka branch and founded the Nadi Cultural Society. He was elected to the Nadi Town Council and was mayor for three consecutive years.
He fought three General Elections as an Alliance Communal candidate.
Ratu Mara asked why he stood as a communal candidate when he had no chance of winning. He replied “Because I don’t want to leave Nadi”.
He was awarded a Research Fellowship by the Indian Government and was attached to the Maharaja Sayajirao University in Baroda, India, gaining a PHD in 1983.
After two years study at Bond University he gained a LLB and in 1996 did his practical training at the Leo Cussens Institute in Melbourne.
In 1996 he joined the Victorian Bar and one year later he was admitted to practice in Fiji. He became a partner in GP Shankar and Company, Barristers and Solicitors in Ba.
Over the last few years he was resident in Australia but he always kept a close eye on the activities of the Fiji Education Society and provided insightful suggestions on possible directions for the improvement of the education system.
He will be sadly missed by the great many people in Fiji whose life he has touched in some way.
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