After months of excitement, anticipation and a journey of over 6,000 miles from Salamieh, Syria, Nuha Alaizouki and Wassim Alhammwy are finally able to call the Aga Khan Academy in Maputo, Mozambique their new home.
With over 35 years of combined teaching experience in the fields of Arabic Language and Sports, respectively, the arrival of Nuha and Wassim and their two children (who are now also studying at the Academy), brings the campus one step closer to launching its International Talent Identification Programme, which aims to provide exceptional students from unique geographical locations and backgrounds access to quality education regardless of their ability to pay.
In the upcoming academic year, four students from Syria are expected to attend the Academy. The students will come from different cities including Salamieh and Damascus and have been selected from a pool of over 800 applicants. In addition, the Academy is anticipating the arrival of a group of students from Iran, supported by an additional Persian Language teacher.
Nuha’s role as an Arabic Language teacher will ensure these students retain a firm grasp of their mother tongue – an essential skill if following their international studies they return home and enter positions of leadership in Syria. Importantly, Nuha will also provide pastoral care for these residential students in her role as a “dorm parent”, offering them a familiar cultural link to their home country while they study abroad.
For Nuha and Wassim’s family, the future arrival of these Syrian students excites them as they are eager to welcome more people from their Syrian community. Whilst at the Academy, Nuha will be an Arabic Language teacher and Wassim will be a Physical Health Education teacher, along with both of them providing support to the incoming Syrian students to ensure they feel comfortable in Maputo. Together, they are excited about their family’s future at the Academy and the various opportunities for growth they will encounter during their time there, including developing their skills further through the Academies’ award-winning Professional Development Centres, in place at each campus.
Speaking of their collective passion for teaching, Wassim shared: “We truly believe that teaching is a sublime humanitarian mission. It is a process between inspiration and implementation, and through teaching, there is a great deal of love, caring and appreciation.”
Their two-year journey to begin working at the Academy has not been without its challenges, however. Border closures between Syria and Lebanon due to neighbouring political unrest, the COVID-19 pandemic, the inability of Syrians to travel to the United Arab Emirates, amongst other challenges have all delayed the arrival of Nuha, Wassim and their two children at the Academy.
Fortunately, the family received support from numerous individuals and organisations who were committed to support facilitation of their journey from Syria to Mozambique. Upon arrival at the Academy in Maputo, the family was warmly welcomed by the staff. Within minutes of their arrival, the family felt like they could call the Academy their new home and were able to hit the ground running – as, in line with local Mozambican government guidelines, the school is currently fully operational for all day students, with residential students continuing their studies through the Academy’s highly successful online learning platform.
“All of the people here in the Academy are very welcoming, friendly and supportive. The campus is simply amazing! Very beautiful and well organised.” said Nuha.
The Aga Khan Academy Maputo’s Head of Academy, Michael Spencer, is looking forward to the arrival of students from Syria as he was able to personally assess the students in Syria and interact with them. The opportunity to study in Maputo will not only expose them to the International Baccalaureate (IB) but also to the unique elements of the Academies’ curriculum, particularly the areas of learning aimed at developing knowledge, skills and attitudes required by future leaders. At their new home, they will also experience first-hand the unique cultures of Maputo and interact with students from all over the world.
“Every time I see Nuha and Wassim and their children on the campus, I am reminded of their resilience, determination and commitment to be a part of the Aga Khan Academy Maputo,” said Michael Spencer, Head of the Academy in Maputo. “Soon, we will be welcoming our first students from Syria, and I am looking forward to greeting and welcoming them, knowing how much they will contribute to our community. My sincere thanks go to everyone who has made this remarkable journey possible.”