Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, 8 February 2017 - Graduands at the Aga Khan University’s 12th convocation ceremony in Dar es Salaam were urged to make the best of their education by rising to the challenge of improving people’s quality of life.
In his speech, Chief Guest Lila Mkila, Deputy Governor of the Bank of Tanzania, told graduates to celebrate today but to remember how they can use the knowledge and skills gained through higher education to contribute to Tanzania and Africa’s future prosperity.
Mr. Mkila pointed out that the importance of higher education could hardly be overstated and went on to talk about the experience of his colleague, Dr. Benno Ndulu, Governor of the Bank of Tanzania, who authored a report with World Bank colleagues on “The Challenges of African Growth”. The report pointed out that there were four areas where investment was critical to accelerating economic growth and improving people’s well-being, and one of them was innovation, and within that area, higher education. In essence, Mr. Mkila said: “The more educated and skilled a person, the more productive and innovative they tend to be, and hence the greater their contribution to economic growth.”
“Yet we still face a dilemma: if we don’t have enough people to act on the basis of that knowledge, or to use that technology, very little will change. As Dr. Ndulu’s report stated: ‘Like a big book in the sky, technological knowledge and inventions are a global public good. But one can only use them if one can reach the book, turn the pages and read from it’” he added.”
AKU President Firoz Rasul in his welcome address to the graduands encouraged graduates to remember how their education has equipped them with the skills to tackle challenges around them. “As humans we naturally seek a higher purpose. We seek a great task or calling – a challenge that brings meaning to our lives, and that leaves a mark on the lives of others.”
Mr. Rasul urged graduates to never be overawed by challenges around them. He used the example of AKU’s work with public sector nursing bodies and Johnson and Johnson to highlight the importance of partnerships with international institutions and public-sector organisations to widen and deepen the impact of one’s own initiatives.
“With the support of the Johnson & Johnson Corporate Citizenship Trust, which has provided scholarships for our nurses for 15 years, we undertook a major study of the School of Nursing and Midwifery and its alumni. That study found our graduates are making a significant impact on health systems and the quality of nursing care. Nearly four in 10 are senior leaders, managers, educators or researchers, and the rest are at the bedside, directly involved in patient care.
In Tanzania, the University is talking with the Nursing and Midwifery Council and the Ministry of Health about offering either a bachelor’s or master’s level midwifery qualification to help expectant mothers and their babies get the care they need before, during and after delivery.
He added that the University is also working to improve the quality of education in the country’s schools. “Our Institute for Educational Development, East Africa (IED, EA) is collaborating with other Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) agencies on a five-year project to increase learning among pre-primary and primary students in marginalised communities across East Africa. Already, the project has trained more than 1,000 educators and officials in Tanzania.”
“IED, EA has today seen 30 graduates conferred with a master’s degree. After today’s convocation, the Institute has over 300 graduates practicing across East Africa, a truly regional programme with wide representation from Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. The School of Nursing and Midwifery awarded 17 bachelor degrees, leading to a total of 623 diploma and degree holders in Tanzania to date. In medicine, there was one graduate from the Postgraduate Medical Education programme”, said Mr. Rasul.
Notably however is AKU’s significant impact in Tanzania over the years, and through this commitment today Tanzania enjoys tremendous improvement in the public education system. According to Mr. Rasul, “between 2003 to date, the Strengthening Education Systems in East Africa (SESEA) which is now fully established in Mtwara and Dar es Salaam has trained over 1,000 teachers who impact at least 75,000 pupils. The “Fursa Kwa Watoto” programme in Mwanza trains head teachers, deputy head teachers and pre-primary teachers and to date about 600 are beneficiaries of this programme- impacting about 10,000 pupils in Tanzania in the past year alone. At least 90 public schools in Mwanza and Kilimanjaro are beneficiaries of the Fursa Kwa Watoto projects.
He went on to highlight how AKU, together with its fellow agencies of AKDN, were tackling local challenges.
The Aga Khan Health Services Tanzania provides health care to nearly 400,000 people in Tanzania annually and the Aga Khan Hospital in Dar es Salaam is set to double its capacity, add specialties, and open 22 health centres he said. “As part of the Hospital’s transformation, the University has expanded its Postgraduate Medical Education programme. In addition to training family medicine specialists, we are now training surgeons and internal medicine specialists” who will help make advanced care more widely available.
Mr. Rasul concluded his speech by explaining how personal efforts to solve public concerns leads to great personal fulfillment.
“There is no greater reward than the knowledge that your efforts have deeply and positively impacted the lives of a great many people. The chance to experience that knowledge for yourself is an opportunity indeed – one I urge you not to miss.”
At the convocation, 48 graduands were awarded degrees.
Victoria Nyamunga, Director,
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Chartered in 1983, the Aga Khan University (AKU) is a private, autonomous university that promotes human welfare through research, teaching and community service initiatives. Based on the principles of quality, access, impact and relevance, the university has campuses and programmes in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, the United Kingdom, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Its facilities include teaching hospitals, Faculties of Health Sciences with Schools of Nursing and Midwifery and Medical Colleges, Institutes for Educational Development, an Examination Board and an Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations. A Graduate School of Media and Communications, an East African Institute and an Institute for Human Development are under development while Faculties of Arts and Sciences are to be set up in Pakistan and East Africa. Through its needs-blind admissions policy, the University imbues the most promising leaders and thinkers of tomorrow with an ethic of service and the skills to help communities solve their most pressing challenges.
The Aga Khan University is one of nine agencies in the Aga Khan Development Network, a group of private development agencies with mandates ranging from health and education to architecture, culture, microfinance, rural development, disaster reduction, the promotion of private-sector enterprise and the revitalisation of historic cities. www.aku.edu