Karachi’s Education City sits in the middle of nowhere on a vast piece of land on the outskirts of the city. Conceived in 2001, it took three years for the city government to even draw its boundaries on a map.
It has taken another 15 years since then for a university to open its doors as the Sindh Madrassatul Islam University (SMIU) became the first to inaugurate its campus when it announced the opening of its environment department on Friday.
“The reason we wanted to open the environment department here first is because we want to make an environment friendly campus,” said vice-chancellor Professor Dr Ali Sheikh inside an expansive golden marquee filled with students that had arrived there crammed inside several coaster buses. “The students will plant their own trees and they will have plaques bearing their names on the trees. We can’t focus on the environment once this place has become a concrete jungle. We need to do it first.”
The project, however, is a long-term one. “What we have done is planted the seeds today and this campus will grow into a fully grown fruit-bearing tree in 10 years,” said the vice-chancellor, gesturing towards the aptly green-painted campus building as he refused to let go of the tree analogy.
For now, little surrounds the Education City barring acres upon acres of mainly barren land populated by a few scattered settlements, but the vice-chancellor is sure times are changing. “DHA City is less than a kilometre away from here. Bahria Town is less than 10km away.”
Plans are in place for swift development, not only for those mega-societies but also for the university as it looks to cater to the projected demands of the future. “We built this building out of our own budget and have funds of Rs1.57 billion allocated for the construction of hostels, faculty blocks and the vice-chancellor’s house. This phase will be complete by 2021.”
The SMIU is the only public sector university at Education City and their 100 acres was allotted to them free of charge by the Sindh government. “I had a meeting with then Sindh chief minister Qaim Ali Shah and explained to him that the only way we could pay the Rs150,000 per acre price was if the government released funds for us that we returned to them. So they gave us the land for free in the end.”