Dismal enrolment : Few choose to shine at College of Design

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In the three years since its inception, College of Design in Peshawar has attracted just nine students.

Dedicated to jewellery design and gemmology for the time being, the institute’s primary objective is to nourish the craft and its industry, which has a significant presence in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P).

The dismal enrolment rate does not reflect lack of skilled teachers at the college, as its list of faculty boasts a strong group of established and qualified artistes – with both fine arts and gemmology backgrounds.

With no other institute of its kind in the city, students would be expected to jump at the opportunity to excel in a field that has a promising future.

One explanation for the low enrolment, however, could be the hefty cost of a four-year bachelor’s degree at the institute – Rs800,000. Being a constituent of the Pakistan Institute of Fashion Design (PIFD) in Lahore, its fee structure is based on the umbrella organisation.

“PIFD is very popular in Lahore and attracts a huge number of students,” said Tayyaba Aziz, who is the principal of the college. An established artist herself, Aziz said the cost reflects the state-of-the-art facilities and tools available to students, including some of the gemstones and metal used in the classes.

Aziz has also served as chairperson of the Department of Fine Arts at UoP, where a bachelor’s in art costs less than half of what a Bachelor’s in Jewellery Design and Gemmological Sciences costs at the College of Design. However, Aziz said they provide need-based financial assistance to students and in some cases 100% aid is offered.

Aziz believes the low enrolment is due to a lack of interest.

“People don’t understand the value and importance of art and design,” she said, adding there needs to be a concerted effort to change the mindset regarding these design fields, as they have a vibrant job market in the region.

While the college started out furniture design and manufacturing as well, only the Jewellery Design and Gemmology degree has gained traction amongst students and all three students at present are enrolled in this programme.

The emphasis on jewellery design came from the existence of a large jewellery market in the city as well as K-P’s rich resource of precious and semi-precious stones

“Namak Mandi is one of the biggest markets for precious and semi-precious stones in South Asia, but due to a lack of skills these are exported in their raw form, earning a fraction of their potential value,” said Bilal Bhatti, a teaching associate at the college.

Bhatti believes K-P’s jewellery products could compete at the international level if local designers developed the skill to create value-added products.

Former president of All Pakistan Commercial Exporters Association (APCEA) and K-P’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ziaul Haq Sarhadi agrees with Bhatti.

“We waste 80% of our stones due to unskilled manpower and lack of access to modern technology,” said Sarhadi. Using the example of Lapis Lazuli, he said the semi-precious stone is sold by weight, whereas neighbouring India and other countries use technology to create a finished product that earns twice as much.

The nine students who are currently enrolled at the college show promise of becoming designers and even entrepreneurs.

Though it may be a small group, they seem motivated to develop their craft at the institute’s University Town campus. Using brass and silver, they work hard to produce a final product which they display with pride.

“I chose this field because I believe it has a good job market and I can even start something of my own,” said Benish Ghani, one of three women presently enrolled at the college.

While students and instructors remain optimistic, they are also cognisant of the fact that there are few avenues for artiste’s to show their work. “Besides lack of educational institutions in the city, there is also a dearth of galleries or places where artistes can showcase their work for the public,” said Hamid Kheshgi, a lecturer at the college. “If only the students knew the potential of this field, they would show more interest in learning the craft,” he added.

Source: The Express Tribune