SAKHAKOT, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: Said Muhammad Khan devoted his life to teaching others. Upon retirement, when he finally had time for himself after half a century of service, he enrolled in university and at 76 became Pakistan’s oldest student.
Khan became a student of the University of Malakand in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Aug. 17, as he got admitted to its bachelor of arts program.
“My thirst for knowledge education remains fresh within me,” he told Arab News at his home in Ghawar village in Skhakot, Malakand district. “For many years I was busy in teaching and couldn’t get a higher education. Now it is high time. I am energetic and active enough. I can do it,” he said partly in English, as he is also planning to master the foreign language.
Khan completed his 10th grade in 1962 and became a schoolteacher at a government-run high school in Dargai. As he retired in 2004, he continued to learn and a few years ago passed 12th grade exams to pursue university studies.
He is the oldest student in Pakistan. “In the country’s records, we don’t any student older than him,” Fidullah Khan, spokesman of the University of Malakand, told Arab News.
He added that the university’s vice chancellor decided to waive Khan’s tuition fees and that everyone is honored by the 76-year-old’s decision to choose the university to pursue his passion for knowledge.
“Our staff and students are happy that Said Muhammad Khan got enrolled in this university,” he said, “Our administration is now going to draft a policy for tuition-free education for both male and female students who are over 70 years old.”Highly respected in his village,
Khan, affectionately referred to as Ustad Ji, is a paragon of educational success in Ghawar. He has four daughters. Two of them are graduates and two have completed high school before marriage.
Village shopkeeper Ahmad Ilyas, who often engages in conversations with Khan, says he is a role model for the whole community and his university admission will further motivate others to educate their children.
“When he passed high school exams, he became an example for other parents,” Ilyas said, “We don’t have any schools here, but this year I am sure most parents will send their children to school to another village.”
Khan spends most of his time reading. He says those who do not try to learn are not able to have enriching lives.
“I use my brain and that’s why my memory is fresh. I remember English words, mathematics, history, and religious quotes,” he said, “Education makes me younger than my peers, it gives me air to breathe.”