Vow to keep Sheffield college in Kashmir going after lecturer's death

Friends and family of a Sheffield man who dedicated much of the last 15 years of his life to building and running a school in an area of Kashmir that was badly hit by an earthquake have pledged to help the school carry on.

By diana stannard
Friday, 9th July 2021, 3:02 pm
Sheffield College in Bagh
Sheffield College in Bagh

Sheffield College in Bagh, Azad Kashmir - a part of Kashmir which is under Pakistani administration - was built by a Sheffield-based charity, Kashmir Earthquake Fund, which was set up after the terrible earthquake of October 2005 when an estimated 85,000 people died.

A group from Sheffield, including several British Kashmiris, first travelled to the area during Christmas 2005, led by Abdul Assim, who died in May after a long illness.

Mr Assim, who was a retired Sheffield College lecturer, helped to inspire the founding of the charity, which raised the money to build the school in a remote area, with the aim of giving children the chance to study a curriculum in English and pass GCSE exams.

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The local community requested this as it gives their children far better chances in life.

Sheffield College, Bagh opened in April 2012.

Mr Assim, who was passionate about young people’s education, acted as college principal and spent a lot of time at the college, until he was too ill to travel to Bagh and also prevented by the pandemic.

He continued to speak to staff by phone every day, up until his last illness.

After Mr Assim died, the charity trustees met with members of his family at his home in Nether Edge to see how they could pay tribute to his work and help the college to move forward.

The plan is to hold a charity dinner in Sheffield as a memorial event to celebrate Mr Assim’s work, when this is possible, and also to work with college staff on ensuring it has a secure future.

The college currently has 120 students and 75 children in total have passed their GCSEs, with 80 per achieving at least seven A* grades.

One former student is currently studying medical sciences, with the aim of becoming a doctor.

Mr Assim’s widow, Kubra Assim, has agreed to act as interim principal at the college, working alongside local management.

She will be supported by former Rotherham teacher Muhammad Gulfraz.

Mr Assim’s son-in-law, Sajid Mahmood, who has an accountancy background, will take over as secretary, helping with the college finances.

Mr Assim’s youngest son, Zain, has taken on the role of raising money to build a student hostel at the college.

They will all be supported in this work by the Sheffield charity's chair Mohammed Maroof and fellow trustees Julia Armstrong and Maxine Bowler.

The trustees said: “We were incredibly saddened to learn of Mr Assim’s death. He was a great friend to us all and also inspired us with his hard work and dedication to the Bagh College project.

“Many of the victims of the earthquake were children, as the tragedy took place at the beginning of the school day.

“We were a small group who took on a big project to show our solidarity and friendship with the people of Kashmir, who have links to many Sheffield families, at a terrible time for them.

“Along with the people of Bagh, we are determined that the college will continue and thrive and we will work with local staff to support their work at such a sad time for us all.”