Nairobi, Kenya, 2 March 2015 –At a ceremony marking the graduation of students from the Aga Khan University, His Highness the Aga Khan announced that the University will offer undergraduate degrees in Medicine and Nursing, as well as graduate professional education, in East Africa, as part of a programme to educate the leaders in the region through an investment totalling over US$ 1.1 billion.
“The most important point is the multiplier effect our graduates can have,” he remarked, “as you pass along your skills and your standards. I think, for example, of programmes which have trained almost 1,000 head-teachers of secondary schools – just in the last year – a striking example of this powerful multiplier potential.”
“In the end, however, our most important accomplishments are not measured by quantity," he continued, "but by quality. It’s not so much that twelve thousand people were educated at AKU, but rather that one person was educated here – and that this individual life-transforming story has happened – now – some twelve thousand times,” he said.
The Medical College’s Postgraduate Medical Education programme and the School of Nursing and Midwifery saw 87 graduands today. Twenty-one students were awarded Master of Medicine degrees, alongside 39 Bachelor of Science in Nursing and 27 Diploma in Nursing graduates. The valedictorian speaker was graduate Dr Joshua Kibera, Master of Medicine, Anatomic Pathology specialization.
Over 700 people attended the convocation ceremony, including graduands, AKU faculty members and senior staff, donors, government officials, members of the diplomatic community, as well as AKDN leaders.
“As we expand our work in Kenya, one of our highest priorities is to achieve international standards of healthcare – especially for non-communicable diseases, such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Another special focus will be neuroscience – where the promises of stem cell technology must be brought massively and competently to Africa,” said the Aga Khan.
“Our overall plan is for a nationally integrated health system, built on the strong foundations already in place at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi.”
It is the first time such degrees will be offered in East Africa. Speaking in Nairobi at the convocation of the University, His Highness the Aga Khan, Chancellor of the Aga Khan University and founder and chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network, remarked that “our overall goal can be simply stated: we believe that no Kenyan should have to leave the country to seek quality medical care.”
Remarking that the progress in improving the quality of human life was directly linked to the quality of civil society, the Aga Khan said, “a healthy civil society is a meritocratic one, where ethics are honoured, and excellence is valued. And the great question now confronting us in Africa is how rapidly the institutions of a healthy civil society can be established and reinforced,” he said.
In Kenya, several initiatives are underway. AKU’s recently launched Graduate School of Media and Communications will help the media industry through training of journalists and media leaders; it is one of eight graduate schools planned in the region. The new Institute of Human Development is focused on research on the holistic development of the child. The East African Institute is studying social and economic challenges affecting the region, including aspirations and self-identity of a growing young population.
The University’s role would be critical he said. “From the start over thirty years ago, this University’s blueprint envisioned a multi-campus, multi-continental university – comprehensive, broadly integrated, and research-led. That vision, as you have heard, is now coming true.”
Earlier this week, the Aga Khan presided over convocation ceremonies in Kampala and in Dar es Salaam. The ceremonies also mark 15 years of the University’s presence on the continent, and were attended by senior faculty and AKU trustees, including Princess Zahra Aga Khan, the founder's daughter.
The Aga Khan University, which spans three countries in East Africa alone, has announced ambitious plans for to invest over US$ 1.1 billion in the region over the next 15 years – the largest investment in higher education in the history of the region.
It envisages the establishment of a Faculty of Health Sciences in Nairobi supported by the internationally accredited Aga Khan University Hospital, which as a teaching hospital produces outstanding medical specialists.
The Faculty of Arts and Sciences, offering undergraduates a liberal arts education, and a number of graduate schools including Hospitality, Leisure and Tourism, and Architecture and Human Settlements will be built in Arusha. A new campus for AKU’s Institute for Educational Development will be constructed in Dar es Salaam to help the school systems.
A teaching hospital will be opened in Kampala, staffed by exceptional physicians and nurses and equipped with the latest technology.
In his speech, AKU President, Mr. Firoz Rasul, who has led the school’s expansion in East Africa, urged the graduates to work together to contribute to East Africa’s development in a period of regional and global integration.
“Your education has equipped each of you for leadership,” he said. “And the hallmark of a leader is the understanding that real change happens when like-minded individuals are united in pursuit of the same goal,” he said.
Today there are “both unprecedented challenges and extraordinary opportunities on a planet more connected and complex than ever before,” he added.
“This is a time in which you can achieve extraordinary things. I have no doubt that our pride in you will only grow as we learn of your achievements in the years to come.”
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Aga Khan University
Founded by His Highness the Aga Khan in 1983, the University’s objective is “to be on the frontiers of scientific and humanistic knowledge” while inspiring students to be independent learners and researchers imbued with a spirit of service and respect for others. In the 26 years since its founding, Aga Khan University’s major focus has been in the fields of health and education. For the decades ahead the University plans to step beyond success in these areas and become a more diversified university, both geographically and scholastically.
The University currently has programmes in eight countries spread over three continents. In East Africa, the University offers Advanced Nursing Studies programmes in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania; and Postgraduate Medical Education in Kenya and Tanzania. These programmes are supported by a 250-bed teaching hospital, the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi. The Institute for Educational Development, East Africa offers Master of Education degrees and certificate courses out of Dar es Salaam. In Pakistan, there is a Medical College; a School of Nursing; and a 560-bed teaching hospital, Aga Khan University Hospital; an Institute for Educational Development that includes Professional Development Centres in Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral; and an Examination Board in Karachi. In London, UK, there is the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations that offers a graduate degree in Muslim Cultures.
The University is also working with the governments of Syria, Egypt and Afghanistan to improve nursing and medical education curriculum, teaching standards and clinical practice.