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  • Dr Ghiath Barakat, Minister of Higher Education, and Mr Firoz Rasul, President of Aga Khan University, sign an agreement to further develop the healthcare sector in the country. The signing of the agreement was witnessed by His Highness the Aga Khan and Prime Minister Muhammad Naji Al-Otri.
    AKDN / Gary Otte
Aga Khan University signs agreement to further health and education development in Syria

Damascus, Syria, 25 August 2008 - The Ministries of Health and Higher Education of the Government of Syria and Aga Khan University (AKU) today signed a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance capacity in the health sector. The memorandum was signed at the Office of the Prime Minister in Damascus and witnessed by Syrian Prime Minister, His Excellency Muhammad Naji Al-Otri and His Highness the Aga Khan, Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Ismaili Muslims. His Highness the Aga Khan is the founder and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and the Chancellor of the Aga Khan University. He is in Syria on a 6-day official visit.

The memorandum, which provides a framework for cooperation in nursing education and hospital quality assurance, was signed by Dr. Maher Al-Husami, Minister of Health, Dr. Ghiath Barakat, Minister of Higher Education and Mr. Firoz Rasul, President of AKU, witnessed by Mr. Mohamed Seifo, AKDN Representative in Syria.

The signing of the memorandum marks the expansion of an existing, successful partnership between the Government of Syria and Aga Khan University. The partnership is a significant contribution towards the strengthening and building of capacity in the country in response to the challenge of developing human resources in healthcare. As part of this partnership, AKU will provide technical assistance to the Ministries for:

  • Strengthening of selected Bachelors and Masters programmes for nurses through developing capacity of faculty and introducing research-based, relevant curricula; and,
  • Establishing quality assurance systems at the Damascus Hospital through comprehensive training of staff.

The partnership between the Government of Syria and Aga Khan University is unique in that it spans several sectors in scope and includes linkages between three universities in the Muslim world: Teshreen University and Al-Baath University in Syria and the Aga Khan University.

“Institutions that teach best practices, measured in global terms, are critical for any country in the world, however well developed it is,” said the Aga Khan at the signing ceremony. “Building institutional capacity in Syria - jointly in healthcare and education, is a goal which we have shared since we started our discussions and the agreement that was signed today with regard to Higher Education and institutional building, enters directly into this area.”

From 2003-2007, AKU served as an intellectual partner to Syria’s Ministry of Health. In this period, AKU successfully introduced nursing quality assurance at seven hospitals, trained over 100 nurses in clinical skills and quality assurance, assisted in the development of the Ministry of Health’s diploma nursing curriculum and trained 40 teachers in contemporary pedagogies. During this time, nine students have benefited from higher education opportunities at AKU in Pakistan, including Bachelor and Master of Science in Nursing and Master of Education degree programmes. Most of these students have now returned to Syria to contribute to the development of the health and education sectors in their country.

According to President Rasul, an important aspect of the partnership between AKU and the Syrian Government is that it is a South-South relationship. “In the last century or so, the common perception globally has been that the flow of learning, ideas, and solutions, is only credible if it is from the West to the East or from the North to the South. However, this is a misconception, as the partnership between the Syrian Government and Aga Khan University demonstrates. Together we have been able to foster linkages between important centres of learning in our countries,” he said.

The Aga Khan University was the first private autonomous university (chartered) established in 1983 in Pakistan and its charter calls upon it to serve the Ummah and developing countries. The University is recognised for its research, teaching and service at an international standard in medicine, nursing, teacher education, medical care and community service. The university has campuses and programmes in eight countries in South Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa, including Faculties of Health Sciences with a Nursing School, Medical College and teaching hospitals in Karachi and Nairobi, Institutes for Educational Development in Karachi and Dar es Salaam, an Examination Board and an Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations. AKU is a non-denominational institution open to all, irrespective of religion, ethnicity, gender, national origin or financial standing.

For more information, please contact:
Rasool Sarang
Assistant Manager Media
Public Affairs
Aga Khan University
Stadium Road, P.O. Box 3500
Karachi 74800, Pakistan
Tel: +92 21 486 2917

Semin Abdulla
Information Officer
Secrétariat de Son Altesse l'Aga Khan
60270 Gouvieux, France
Syria Tel: +963 945 329 899


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 will travel to a number of countries to meet with members of the Ismaili community, visit projects of the AKDN and 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$ 350 million.

AKDN in Syria In Syria, programmes of the Aga Khan Development Network AKDN span six provinces (Aleppo, Damascus, Hama, Lattakia, Sweida and Tartous), serving both rural and urban populations. AKDN programmes in Syria focus on healthcare, education, microfinance, culture, cultural tourism, rural development, institution-support and the promotion of economic development. All activities undertaken by the AKDN in Syria are implemented under the Framework of a Development Agreement signed in November 2001 by His Highness the Aga Khan and the Government of Syria.