Please also see: Keynote Speech by His Highness the Aga Khan at the Global Mountain Summit, Press Release (1) & (2) and Photographs
Osh, Kyrgyz Republic, 30 October 2002 – Creative long-term solutions for poverty-struck regions and the country’s future educational needs characterise two major new resources established here today by His Highness the Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslims.
In a meeting with Governor Naken Kasiev, the Aga Khan outlined an integrated development programme that the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) is proposing to start in the Alai and Chon Alai districts of the Osh oblast to benefit nearly 90,000 people spread across sparsely settled remote mountain communities. The programme will strengthen organisations at the village level, will concentrate on improving livelihoods for some of the most disadvantaged populations in this part of Central Asia. Livestock and potato production will be particularly targeted. Other components of the programme will address deficiencies in the delivery of healthcare and education services, management and curriculum needs in schools, minor infrastructure, investment opportunities in small enterprises and microfinance.
“We hope to bring to areas that are amongst the poorest and least served, our experience of strengthening communities living in other high mountain regions with similar economic and ecological environments” said the Aga Khan. “As in those other regions,” he noted, “we see this as a long-term initiative whose success will be determined by the commitment of the beneficiary population and the continued collaboration of the government.”
Welcoming the initiative, Governor Kasiev expressed the appreciation of the oblast and the government for the attention that the AKDN was giving to the most critical needs facing some of the poorest and most neglected communities in the region.
The inauguration of the first phase of the Aga Khan School, Osh this afternoon, marked the beginning of an exciting new chapter in educational development for the Southern Kyrgyz Republic and the entire country. Comprising an academic centre with 22 classrooms and seminar rooms, a Learning Resource Centre, a multipurpose gymnasium and a 200-seat cafeteria, the School will introduce innovation in learning environments, methodology and curricula.
“What students know is no longer the most important measure of the quality of education,” said the Aga Khan. “The true test is the ability to engage with what they do not know, and to work out a solution. Delineating skills the School would endeavour to engender, the Aga Khan listed among others, “the ability to make judgements grounded in solid information, to employ careful analysis and to learn to place such judgements into an ethical framework.”
“This School,” said Governor Kasiev, who performed the inauguration, “establishes a benchmark of distinction for the entire country, not only in the quality of education, but in facilities and, more importantly, in its contribution to strengthening pedagogic training and human resources.”
Designed as a “centre of excellence,” the private, secular school now joins the network of over 300 schools and programmes operated by the Aga Khan Education Services (AKES) in ten countries. It is linked to the International Academic Partnership with Phillips Academy in the USA that AKES has developed over the past decade. The School currently has an enrollment of 98 students and is expected to accommodate up to 600 students when fully operational in 2005. Admission to the school will be on the basis of merit, with a provision for assistance for bright students with financial constraints. Instruction will place strong emphasis on Kyrgyz and English languages and will be based on the national and regional curricula, enriched by additional subjects including Economics and Business Studies, Information Technology and Global and Cultural Studies. Leadership skills and disaster management will be amongst the extracurricular activities offered.
Specialised facilities for Art, Music, Home Economics, Woodwork/Metalwork and Information Technology will overlook an open-air amphitheatre capable of seating up to 200 people. At the hub of the 5,200 square metres of built space is a three-storey Learning Resource Centre that incorporates science laboratories for physics, chemistry and biology, a library and multimedia facility and a student activity centre. A wide range of sports equipment will allow the gymnasium to be used for a variety of indoor activities. Physical education will be a compulsory part of the curriculum.
The AKDN has been engaged in a number of educational initiatives with students and institutions across the Kyrgyz Republic. These include the sponsorship of selected faculty to attend especially designed courses at Durham University for instructors of English Language and at the London School of Economics for teachers of Economics. This was supplemented by the establishment of a modern, computer-based language laboratory at Osh State University. The Aga Khan Humanities Project for Central Asia has been working with instructors and researchers from universities in the Kyrgyz Republic to develop humanities curricula for universities and secondary schools in Central Asia. Teachers from the Kyrgyz Republic have returned to implement staff and curriculum development initiatives after postgraduate training at the Aga Khan University’s Institute for Educational Development in Pakistan. The University of Central Asia established by the AKDN under an international treaty ratified by the Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan has conducted courses in Bishkek through its Division of Continuing Education and Training.
Earlier in the day, Governor Kasiev presided over a ceremony in which the Aga Khan was invested with an honorary professorship from Osh State University. In a citation that acknowledged his enduring and dedicated commitment to social development, the University commended the Aga Khan for his services to the cause of education in the Kyrgyz Republic and Central Asia.
The Aga Khan continues his visit to the Kyrgyz Republic.
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