The Aligarh Iftar Fundraiser
By Zafar Iqbal*, PhD and Syed Amir**, PhD
Dr Atiya Khan (left) and a section of the audience (right)
The Iftar-fundraiser in Ramadan to support the needy students at the Aligarh Muslim University has become one of the signature events of the Aligarh Alumni Association of Metropolitan Washington (AAA) for some years. The Association had yet another successful evening last on 5th September 2009 receiving over$50,000 from the generous supporters of education.
The function opened with the recitation of a Qur’anic sura and its translation by two young girls, Amna and Ammal Hussain. A one-minute silent prayer was offered for the Association members who had passed away last year.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Rafat Husain, director of the scholarship program and current president of the Association, emphasized the fact that scholarships were not a charity but an investment in the community and the recipients were expected to help the next generation when they become earning members of the community. His speech was followed by a slide presentation by Dr. Razi Raziuddin that showcased some impressive data on the financial health and status of the scholarship program and how it was being administered and used to benefit the needy students at the university.
Dr. A. Abdullah, Begum Rukhsana Rahman, and Mr. Tufail Ahmad eloquently and persuasively emphasized the point that investment of resources in education of the new generations took precedence over all others charitable causes. The duties of the master of ceremonies were performed by Dr. Atiya Khan, who is an effective communicator with extensive experience in leading such efforts. She nicely punctuated the scheduled speeches, urging the audiences to donate money, with her own bits of reminiscences and commentaries that broke up the tedium.
A noteworthy feature of the scholarship program is its expansion to include the so-called feeder institutions (high schools and similar institutions of learning) in selected districts in Uttar Pradesh, Utranchal Pradesh, and Bihar. The expansion is driven by the realization to improve the quality of education at a level earlier than the university; the education imparted at the school level is crucial to prepare students for colleges and universities.
From a humble beginning in 1990, the number of scholarship awarded to students—both boys and girls—enrolled for degrees in multiple disciplines, such as medicine, law, science, economics, liberal arts, and journalism, etc. has increased to 190 in 2009. There is a special program for physically-challenged and orphan students. The number of students receiving financial support under feeder institution program will increase from 300 this year to 500 next year.
A special and welcome feature included for the past few years in the iftar-dinner program is the participation of some former student of the University who has also been one of the beneficiaries of the scholarship program. This year’s selectee, Shahid Talukdar, narrated his experience at the university as an undergraduate student and then went on to acknowledge his indebtedness to the AAA’s scholarship program and how it had contributed to achieving his educational goals. He is currently pursuing a doctoral program at the University of Texas, Lubbock.
Mrs. Shakila Raza — a functionary of the scholarship program along with her husband, late Mr. Ahmad Raza — thanked the supporters of the program and the Association workers for their continuing dedication to the cause of education.