Hero of the Hindukush

The original article can be viewed here: http://ukinpakistan.fco.gov.uk/en/about-us/working-with-pakistan/Major-Langlands/

Major Langlands and Mr. Jalil, conducting interviews for the Langlands School and College, Chitral

In Pakistan’s Chitral Valley, there is evidence that heroes still live. Major Geoffrey Douglas Langlands is one of them, and his lifetime achievements are as mighty in stature as the mountains surrounding his outstanding school. He is Principal of the Langlands School and College, widely regarded as the best school in Chitral. Over 20 years, Major Langlands has built up the institution from 80 students up till the third grade, to almost 1000 students up until the F.Sc level. Almost 93, Major Langlands is no ordinary British citizen. He has been working in Pakistan since 14th August, 1947, when he was deputed from the British Indian Army to the Pakistan Army.His life is a testament to best of human qualities – hard work, selfless devotion, and an unwavering commitment to fairness. After having completed his assignment with the Pakistan Army in 1953, he was asked by Field Marshal Ayub Khan to continue his good services for Pakistan. Major Langlands consented, and onwards from 1954, spent 25 years as teacher and housemaster at Aitchison College, Lahore. He has been heavily involved in the academic lives of several political, bureaucratic, and military leaders, and his name is revered amongst Aitchison’s students and alumni. In March 1979, Major Langlands received a letter, from the Secretary for Education of the erstwhile NWFP, asking him to leave his comfortable job at Aitchison, and come to a difficult one in FATA. Accepting the challenge, Major Langlands came to be Principal of Cadet College Razmak for ten adventurous years. During his time in North Waziristan, Major Langlands was able to prove the value of education in one of Pakistan’s toughest operating environments. Since 1989, he has been busy with the present school in Chitral.

Led by Major Langlands and his dedicated team, the Langlands School is known for merit-based admissions, quality teaching, and excellent results. Major Langlands has instituted a culture that values hard work and academic achievement. This is enshrined in the school’s motto: “there is always room for improvement.” It is a phrase that is often repeated, always backed by the desire to see the students achieve success. The school has three branches – junior, middle, and senior – situated at short distances from each other. Major Langlands actively manages the operations, and starts his days very early, to ensure that he is able to give attention to each branch. He is supported by an extremely dedicated and professional team – Mr. Abdullah and his teachers at the senior school, Ms. Rani and her lady teachers at the junior school, and the administrative staff. Remarkably, together they are able to offer quality education with fees that are lower than many other established schools in the city.

Major Langlands welcomes well wishers to the School. Before classes began this summer, I had the opportunity of visiting Chitral. It was an enchanting experience, and one that made me proud of the dedication with which the city’s young residents are approaching education. I sat with Major Langlands on an interview panel for the admission of girls to the senior school. Several of the girls had traveled long distances alone, to give their admissions interview. Admissions were granted to those with superior academic performance, and decisions were always accompanied with the advice: “Make sure you work very hard.”

The senior school is built higher up in the valley. Its students have been performing well, and now regularly secure admissions down country. They have gone on to scholarships at Islamia College, Fatima Jinnah University, GIKI, FC College, and NUST. Major Langlands is pushing hard for them to do even better. and actively seeks scholarships for high potential graduates. It is an area where there is great potential for assistance – better facilities and scholarships for higher education would be of tremendous benefit.While Major Langlands remains fit and active, he is cognizant of the schools future needs. He is searching for a new principal to take over his responsibilities. Mr. David Game, a London based educationalist, is considering endowing the position, but the search for a suitable candidate continues. Major Langlands will continue to remain at the school – the people of Chitral will not let him go. He himself is extremely fond of the city, and refers to it as the ‘most peaceful place in Pakistan.’

On my last day in Chitral, Major Langlands took me up to the senior branch. As we walked through the grounds, he cut an impressive figure against the Hindukush range. I realized that I was in the presence of an extraordinary human being. One who has dedicated his entire life to a noble cause – the improvement of education in Pakistan. To this day, Major Langlands approaches his work with the highest level of commitment. He recognizes that even now, his job is not finished – Pakistan badly needs to make progress on its educational indicators. Major Langlands has shown us that it can be done, and is busy doing his part: “I have always been optimistic that Pakistan can become better,” he says.

On Thursday, 21st October, 2010, Major Langlands celebrated his 93rd birthday at a ceremony at the British High Commission. The British High Commissioner, Adam Thomson, by instruction of Queen Elizabeth II, conferred the Order of St. Michael and St. George upon him in recognition for his services to education in Pakistan. This 14th of August, the Government of Pakistan also announced the honour of Hilal-e-Imtiaz, which will be bestowed upon him on the 23rd of March next year. Though Major Langlands can never be repaid, his brave leadership will continue to inspire those in Pakistan – in the halls of Aitchison College, the rugged hills of North Waziristan, and in the Hindukush mountains of Chitral. He is our hero.

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6 thoughts on “Hero of the Hindukush

  1. Hi Faraz. Apologies for the delayed response. Yes, according to the last communique from the school, a replacement principal has been found. If you wish to send money to the school, you may contact me and I can put you in touch with the school’s administration. The school has also established a special scholarships account, that provides dedicated scholarship support to the school’s children.

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