Central Asia, 22 June 2022 – Last Saturday, amid the majestic mountains of the Pamirs and Tien Shan, the graduation ceremonies at the two University of Central Asia (UCA) campuses in Naryn, Kyrgyzstan and Khorog, Tajikistan brought together parents, faculty and distinguished guests who came to congratulate the students for their academic achievements and prospects of success.
The event began with a resounding applause as the graduands – proudly displaying their gowns adorned with a creative combination of motifs from the rich cultural traditions of Central Asia – took their seats in anticipation of their degrees.
On behalf of the Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan, Princess Zahra Aga Khan, who is also a trustee of UCA, conveyed a special message of congratulations. She also highlighted the global challenges of climate change, for which solutions and adaptative measures must be identified and implemented locally.
“The reason that UCA teaches Earth and Environmental Sciences is that climate change will affect Central Asia as it will the rest of the planet. It will force changes to the ways you grow and distribute food; to your approach towards resources; and to the way you will build houses in the future. It will also create a raft of new jobs and careers that will be essential in the decades to come.
Most importantly, you, the students of today, will be the scientists of tomorrow. Those who can model and predict natural disasters as well as predict future changes in the climate, and the effect it will have on humans in the next hundred years or more. These scientists will be greatly in demand in various careers, from biology, geology and geography, to physics and chemistry, because all these fields will evolve with climate change, and career options will be varied and crucially important.”
As the ceremony’s chief guest in Naryn, the Minister of Education and Science of the Kyrgyz Republic, Dr Almazbek Beishenaliev, lauded the efforts of UCA in encouraging research relevant to the needs and challenges of the region: “I am confident that UCA graduates will make a significant contribution not only to the development of Kyrgyzstan, but the wider Central Asian region.” He was amongst a number of distinguished guests who spoke at the ceremony.
Dr Shamsh Kassim-Lakha, Chairman of UCA’s Board of Trustees, emphasised the significant role people skills play in professional success: “The education you have received was designed to instil in you a pluralistic mindset to help unify cultures and nationalities, prepare you for responsible citizenship, as well as ethical and enlightened governance; and to think logically and critically. In short, you have been provided resources to help you become leaders in whatever is your chosen career.”
Dr Sohail Naqvi, Rector of UCA, paying tribute to the students and their parents, noted that remaining true to the Chancellor’s vision, the graduands have strived to understand the needs and challenges of rural communities and how to chart a path for their development.
Mr Alisher Mirzonabot, Governor of Tajikistan's Gorno-Badakhshan Province, highlighted the high level of education that UCA provides its students, and the importance of continuing education.
Speaking about the productive relationship between Naryn Oblast and UCA, Governor Sabyrkul Ashimbaev appreciated some of the significant projects in the pipeline, such as the Naryn master plan and the Smart City project, and funding from the Swiss Government to make the region more resilient and sustainable.
Sumaino Shakarbekova, valedictorian of the class of 2022, expressed her gratitude to His Highness the Aga Khan as well as university administration and teachers for the opportunity to receive a world-class education. She shared her story as a young girl growing up in the remote Ishkashim district of GBAO, where girls don’t dare to dream big. But despite the odds she did dream big and achieved something no one from her village ever had.