Mombasa, Kenya, 14 August 2007 - Kenya’s Education Minister, Professor George Saitoti, today laid the foundation stone for the construction of the new Residential Campus at the Aga Khan Academy in Kenya’s coastal city of Mombasa, in the presence of His Highness the Aga Khan. The residential campus will transform the Academy from a high quality day school attended by Mombasa-area students to a residential campus serving students of all backgrounds from across Kenya.
The ceremony held at the Academy today was attended by government dignitaries, celebrated Kenyan athlete Kipchoge Keino, and several of the Academy’s top students.
Speaking at the foundation stone laying ceremony for the new campus, the Aga Khan noted that the Mombasa Academy, which opened a mere four years ago, performed well in this year’s International Baccalaureate exams despite its relatively young age. “To have our very first class of students perform so well is a great tribute to the students and to their teachers,” he said.
Of the 22 Academy students taking the exams, two earned marks placing them in the top 3% of marks globally; two others earned marks placing them in the top 10% globally; and the overall school average was nearly two points above the global average of the nearly 180,000 exam takers globally.
The Aga Khan was in Mombasa as part of a 12-day tour of East Africa, the first official tour of his Golden Jubilee year which marks 50 years since he became the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims on 11th July 1957, succeeding his grandfather, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah.
The Ismaili leader emphasised the need to educate leaders who can cope with an increasingly complex and globalised world. “In a world of bewildering complexity and a mind boggling pace of change, no institution can succeed without wise leadership – and specialised expertise,” he said.
But he noted that the Academies were not designed to serve the privileged elites. “Our goal is to provide a truly exceptional education for truly exceptional students,” he said.
As the first institution in the network of 18 Aga Khan Academies to be established across the developing world, the Aga Khan Academy, Mombasa, which opened in 2003, is the flagship institution which will contribute to, and benefit from the richness of this diverse network.
Students selected for the Aga Khan Academies come from all backgrounds and are selected on merit without regard for their family’s ability to pay. The Academies seek exceptional young people who possess the potential to become future leaders of civil society.
In planning the Residential Campus, the Academy strives to create a ‘home away from home’ for students – a place where the faculty-to-student ratio is low, thereby assuring that students are well looked after and have both voice and responsibility. A core value of the Aga Khan Academy is pluralism, and this is evident in the importance the Academy places on each member of the school community being supported in his or her spiritual development, no matter the person’s faith background. The new Residential Campus in Mombasa will have space for 312 students, aged 12-18, and up to 60 faculty members and families. The first phase of construction is expected to be completed in 2008.
In his remarks, Salim Bhatia, Director of the Academies Unit of the Aga Khan Development Network, commented on the standards and expectations of the Academy: “We expect the Aga Khan Academy in Mombasa to be characterized by high standards academically and personally, a place known for rigour and wonder; self-discipline and play; a place where students learn to excel not to “beat out” a classmate, but to experience the profound satisfaction of having done one’s best and achieved a great result.”
Next week, the Aga Khan will lay the foundation stone for the Aga Khan Academy in Kampala, joining Mombasa and the already acquired sites in Maputo, Mozambique, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Dhaka, Bangladesh and Hyderabad, India which are part of the 18 sites currently envisaged in the network of Academies.
Earlier on Tuesday also in Mombasa, the Aga Khan attended a ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of the Aga Khan Development Network’s Madrasa Programme that provides early childhood education for children from marginalised communities in East Africa and helps them succeed in primary and later schooling.
Addressing a gathering of Madrasa teachers, former students and Kenyan education officials who assembled for the ceremony, the Aga Khan noted that what began as a tiny programme a quarter century ago has since transformed the lives of thousands. “The dream will continue to unfold. And the work all of you have been doing will continue to resonate in the thousands of lives you have touched and shaped and in the lives of their children and grandchildren,” he said.
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Golden Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan
His Highness the Aga Khan completed his 50th year as the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims on 11th July 2007, succeeding his grandfather, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah. The Aga Khan leads a community of 15 million Ismaili Muslims living in some 25 countries around the world and is a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family). In the Ismaili tradition, the Imam’s Jubilee celebrations offer occasions to launch new social, cultural and economic development projects. In keeping with the ethics of the faith, these projects aspire to improve the quality of life for the most vulnerable in society. During the Jubilee year, the Aga Khan is expected to travel to a number of countries to meet with members of the Ismaili community and visit projects of the AKDN. He is also likely to announce the creation of new development institutions and projects and the significant expansion of existing ones.
The Aga Khan Development Network
His Highness the Aga Khan is founder and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), a group of private, non-denominational development agencies working to empower communities and individuals to improve living conditions and opportunities, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, Central and South Asia, and the Middle East. The Network’s nine development agencies focus on social, cultural and economic development for all citizens, regardless of gender, origin or religion. The AKDN’s underlying ethic is compassion for the vulnerable in society. Its annual budget for social development is in excess of US$ 300 million.