The programmes of the Aga Khan Development Network in Portugal range from early childhood development to addressing the problems of social exclusion in urban areas.
The Aga Khan Development Network has been present in Portugal since 1983, with the work of the Aga Khan Foundation Portugal. AKF was oficially recognised as a Portuguese foundation, by decree of law, in 1996. AKF’s activities include research and innovative direct intervention in the areas of early childhood education and social exclusion and urban poverty.
K’CIDADE - an Urban Community Support Programme
Urban Europe is becoming increasingly multi-ethnic and diverse containing neighbourhoods where both rich and poor live side by side. Major European cities are conditioned by the impact of economic globalisation and increasing migration both from inside and outside the European Union. New forms of poverty are excluding people from a minimal acceptable way of life. The associated characteristics of this changing context include privatization of services and welfare reform; demographic change with an increase in the number of working women; higher number of single headed households; increased life expectancy, rural depopulation and urbanisation.
Portuguese society in the last decades has known profound social, economic and cultural transformations, which overall have contributed to an increased quality of life for the population in general. However, the persistence and emergence of areas of poverty and social exclusion, especially in the urban periphery, are also undeniable.
In 2005, the Patriarchate of Lisbon and the Aga Khan Foundation Portugal signed a Partnership Agreement to provide the framework for cooperation in support of an innovative urban community support programme to address problems of social exclusion and poverty alleviation. The Agreement reflects the shared commitment of the Patriarchate and Aga Khan Foundation, Portugal, an agency of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), to an improvement in the quality of life of marginalized and disadvantaged populations, including immigrants and ethnic minorities. It is established under the framework of the Urban Community Support Programme (UCSP).
This ethic of engaging with the problem of social exclusion underpins the Accord of Cooperation for Development between the Portuguese Government and the Ismaili Imamat that came into effect in March 2006. A solid beginning has been made under this Accord, through multi-programme initiatives, to strengthen the community’s capacity to enable them to be leaders in addressing their own plight, and get on to the ladder of economic and social progress.
The objective of the programme known as, K’CIDADE (Kapacidade), is to realise new ways of supporting these communities while reinforcing the Government’s attempts to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse population, strengthening civil society including local voluntary associations and mobilising a diverse network of partners. In 2008, the programme benefitted some 15,000 people. In 2009, it will reach around 25,000 people of which 45% are immigrants or ethnic minorities, and provide support to 250 local organizations.
Through the programme, the Aga Khan Development Network collaborates with Government and municipal agencies, the European Commission, prominent civil society organisations and the Catholic Church. Lessons being learnt under the K’CIDADE programme are being examined for replicability to other urban settings in Portugal, and are also being shared with partner institutions in other countries of Europe.
Early Childhood Development
Aware of the importance of the early years in the formation of intelligence, personality, social behavior and physical development and the outstanding returns investments in early childhood development (ECD) offer, ECD has been one of AKF’s priorities in Portugal.
From its inception AKF has been supporting initiaves that promote a quality early childhood education so that each child develops the necessary skills, such as active learning, creativity, autonomy, critical thinking, cooperation and tolerance, towards readiness for school and for life.
AKF has more than 25 years international experience in early childhood education and is connected with all the leading experts and organisations in early childhood education in the world.
Working with the Ministry of Social Security, the Aga Khan Foundation Portugal plans to manage an Early Childhood Centre in Lisbon. The new public-private partnership will aim to create a “centre of excellence” for children under the age of 3 years, of varying backgrounds, with emphasis placed on cultural diversity and creating awareness on the benefits of integration and learning at the early stages of development.
The Aga Khan Academy
In 2000, His Highness the Aga Khan initiated a programme for the establishment of an integrated network of schools, called Aga Khan Academies, dedicated to expanding access to education of an international standard of excellence. The Academies, which will educate young men and women from pre-primary through higher secondary education, are planned for key locations predominantly in Asia and Africa. The first such school, the Aga Khan Academy, Mombasa, began operating in August 2003.
It is hoped that Lisbon will soon be added to this prestigious network of Academies.
With a curriculum based on the International Baccalaureate, the Academy has at its centre, a broad education in the humanities from pre-primary years through to higher secondary. The Academies will also feature a robust system of international student and teacher exchanges between Academies in different countries as well as with allied schools, including Phillips Academy in the United States and the Schule Schloss Salem in Germany. Proficiency in at least two languages, with English as the medium of instruction, and progressive mastery of information technologies will also be hallmarks of the programmes. To ensure access regardless of socio-economic status or other limiting factors, admission to the Academy is merit-based and means-blind.
In July 2008, the Aga Khan University and the Portuguese Catholic University
signed an agreement of academic collaboration as part of their efforts to
foster international understanding and scholarly cooperation between diverse
cultures and faiths. Areas of collaboration between the two universities
will include culture, law, religion, ethics, health sciences, education
and human development through joint research, training initiatives, and
exchange programmes for faculty and students. The partnership between the
two Universities conveys a collective commitment to go beyond common boundaries
and to build bridges between diverse faiths and peoples by connecting different
parts of the world together through the universal language of scholarship.
The partnership is an opportunity to address shared concerns, identify common
interests and foster greater understanding on issues of global concern.
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