ARTHUR Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington, (May 1, 1769 – September 14, 1852) was one of the leading military and political figures of the 19th England. He is considered as one of the prominent military commanders in the history of Britain, because of his victory against Napoleon in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. After his retirement from military service, he joined the Tory party to start a political career. He served as the Prime Minister of Britain, twice. The expression; “The Battle of Waterloo was won on the fields of Eton”, is attributed to the Duke of Wellington. According to some historians the actual expression used by the Duke, during a visit to his alma mater was, “It is here that the Battle of Waterloo was won.” The expression was rephrased subsequently for clarity, because it did not make sense out of the historical context. Eton is a boarding school in Eton near Windsor. It was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI. Besides Prince William and Prince Harry, a number of members of the British royal family are Etonians. In addition to legendry writers, athletes, scholars and scientists, the institution has produced nineteen Prime Ministers of the Great Britain.
The Great Britain, a tiny island, ruled more than half of the world from the mid-17th century to the mid-20th century. It is widely believed that the quality of the British political and military leadership trained at the public schools, such as Eton and Harrow, played a significant role in establishing the British domination and ascendancy over rest of the world for almost four hundred years. Most of the statesmen and military commanders, who served as the Prime Ministers, Viceroys and Governor Generals at home and in the overseas countries like India, were the graduates of these public schools. Before the establishment of public schools in India, the sons of the rulers of Indian princely states, feudal lords and tribal chiefs, loyal the British crown, were sent to England for training at public schools. The public schools established in India from mid-19th century onwards, initially entertained the children belonging to the local elite and privileged classes, only.
In Pakistan Aitcheson (Lords) College Lahore, Lawrence College Murree and Burn Hall College Abbottabad are the well-known public schools, which were established by the British colonists for the children of local gentry. These institutions have produced generations of alumni, who are serving the nation as the proud, productive and enlightened members of the society. Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, Shaukat Aziz, Imran Khan and a large number of serving and retired senior civil bureaucrats and armed forces officers are the product of these public schools. I have the privilege of having served as the Principal of Burn Hall College Abbottabad for three years, from 2004 to 2007. These institutions virtually function as the leadership academies, particularly for the boarders. In addition to educational and academic training, efforts are made to ensure the all-round grooming of students, through co-curricular activities and sports competitions. Inter-house and intercollegiate competitions form an integral part of training scheme at public schools and cadet colleges, which were established after the creation of Pakistan, to serve as the feeder institutions to the armed forces academies.
The student population is distributed among houses, which are named after our national heroes and leaders. The students of the senior classes are given appointments such as college prefect, house prefect, sports secretary, president of some club or society, etc. on the basis of their all-round performance. While handling the issues related to the discipline of the junior students and administrative affairs of houses, the appointment holders get the opportunity for on-the-job-training as leaders. The experience of living independently, without the support and supervision of the family elders, helps the young boys develop a sense of self-reliance and the ability to handle their personal issues themselves. The strong bond of love and emotional attachment with the classmates, house and the alma mater, developed during the young age from childhood to boyhood, lasts for life.
But more than any other component of formal and non-formal training scheme followed at the public schools and cadet colleges, the sports competitions play the most significant role in the wholesome growth of students. Besides serving as a means of healthy physical activities and recreation, sports activities inculcate esprit de corps, sportsman spirit and a sense of healthy competition among the students. No other occupation can be more effective ploy to insulate the youth from unhealthy pursuits than the sports activities.
Unfortunately, most of the thickly populated cities in our country do not have even open spaces, what to talk of playfields, to provide the youth with the opportunities to play the sports of their choice. Majority of the educational institutions up to the secondary school level do not have playfields to hold sports competitions for the students. Even the educational institutions, being managed by the highly reputed so-called school systems, which are fleecing the hapless parents who wish to provide best possible education to their children, are functioning in the rented residential buildings, which do not have custom-built classrooms, what to talk of the playfields.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, being an alumnus of a public school and a sportsman of international repute in the past, must be fully aware of the significance of sports as an effective means of personality development of the youth. In addition to personality development of the younger generation, sports activities and events, like fine arts, literature, showbiz, etc. help a country build its image as a civilized and cultured nation. The government of Imran Khan, a legendry sportsman is, therefore, expected to formulate a practicable national policy for the promotion of sports at the grass-roots level in Pakistan, a cricket crazy country, where the talent and potential for a number of international sports, abound.
— The writer a retired Brig, is professional educationist based in Islamabad.