At this stage of our history with a very good number of young educated people from all parts of Chitral and a high level of literacy all over Chitral with third position in KP, hardly an educated young man knows as who was Janab Shah and what are his contributions to education in Chitral.
Muhammad Janab Shah was born a few years before the 1919 Anglo-Afghan war at Mulendur Zondrangram of Terich valley in Upper Chitral. His father, Muhammad Arif, was one of the martyrs of the war and had left him an orphan to be reared by his uncle. He was looked after by his paternal uncle and in the meantime a relative from Shagram called him to his home and the head of that family was a literate man in Persian and who taught him alphabets, Islamic education, and then some Persian books which were available there. After reading those primers, the good man told him frankly that he had taught him what he could and for more books he would have to go to a certain learned man at Kosht who also could teach Urdu and contacted the man about that orphan boy. The other very kindly agreed so he was sent there in the guidance of a man from Shagram.
At Kosht, Janab Shah got some more education in Persian as well as Urdu. By then, he was a young man and the teacher from Kosht advised him to travel to Peshawar accompanied by someone else from that village. When in Chitral, he had to wait for some other students of seminaries who were about to leave for Peshawar and they did trek all the way down to Dargai and then by train to Nowshehra. Some of the fellow travelers told him about a man from his own village working in the canteen of the Nowshehra Cantonment High School and he was escorted there.
The man worked in that canteen as bearer and through the good help of that man he was admitted in the school after a test of his ability. He lived on the bounty of his co-villager and the headmaster found him a good and efficient student and awarded him a scholarship. Thus he could continue his education and secured first division in his SSC exam and got admission in Islamia College Peshawar and did his B.A. During his college days, he was a good player of hockey and also visited Kabul with his team.
After BA, Janab Shah was selected for training as a fighter pilot and was under training in India but during this period H.H. Nasirul Mulk had ascended as Mehtar of Chitral who knew about Janab Shah and his selection in the Royal Air Force. Nasirul Mulk wrote to the viceroy to send Janab Shah to Chitral to start teaching in the only middle school – the present Centennial School. The viceroy ordered the commandant of the Air Force where he was under training to relieve Muhammad Janab Shah from the training and directed him to go to Chitral where the his highness was waiting for his arrival report and forthwith appointed him as the headmaster and upgraded the school to middle and then high dchool.
He was given residence, free ration, a servant and cash salary. Thus his career as teacher started. He used to say that ‘HH Muzaffarul Mulk used to call him with the other teaching staff to tea with him, at 10’o clock regularly’. The teachers and other state servants were paid in grain. He worked in that capacity for some years and when the State administration was placed under the political agent Chitral he was given all the works related with education and he was named as education secretary and continued his service in that capacity till his retirement.
As the education secretary, he was a very regular and punctual man of his time. Responsible for education sector in the state, he travelled on horseback to far-flung areas and inspected all schools. He checked the registers of attendance, the casual leave record of teachers and then went into each classroom and inspected it subject wise. Then he wrote his remarks in the logbook of the school, signed and stamped it with the date of inspection. Sub-inspectors of the department also visited schools but not regularly. His annual inspection was a bad day for the teachers and any kind of weakness in a subject brought shame to the teacher concerned.
After the inspection, he held a meeting with the staff and pointed out the weaknesses one by one. It must be noted that the school buildings of those days were built by the communities concerned and no funds were given by the state except the salary, attendance registers and other stationery plus maps of Pakistan, maps of Asia, maps of the world as part of social studies as helping tool for teaching geography. It was perhaps in 1966 that he visited our school and in our 7th class asked us about the purpose of taking a dog with the team by an expedition to Antarctica. Why a dog? he asked.
One of the students tried to answer as the dog was taken to carry/drag the snow wheelbarrow but the student could not express it as to drag but said to ‘drive’ and the word made him to laugh in a roaring voice. He said ‘not to drive but drag’. It was all in Urdu. When he laughed, the tense situation of the classroom subsided. The headmaster felt a breath of relief. The logbooks of his time if kept in the records of the schools concerned will bear out that he visited schools each summer and never missed a valley. It was a hard time and the roads or tracks were in bad repair but he carried out his duty very honestly.
During his annual visit to the schools in the Gabaroong valley, he was hosted by a plentiful meal of rice but when he put the very first morsel into his mouth, his teeth hit a tiny stone and he exclaimed O my God! it is all stone, but one of his subordinates quipped ‘ no sir, there are also some grains of rice’.
The former and present generation of educated men and women all over Chitral owe their educational opportunities due to his tireless and honest duty and hard work for education in the State.