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  • Salim Bhatia, Director of the Aga Khan Academies Network, speaking at the Inauguration of the Aga Khan Academy, Hyderabad.
    AKDN / Gary Otte
Inauguration ceremony of the Aga Khan Academy, Hyderabad

Bismillah-ir-Rahman-ir-Rahim

Your Excellency the Honourable Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh
Your Excellency the Honourable Minister for Human Resource Development of the Government of India
Honourable ministers, Members of the Parliament and Legislative Assembly
Honourable mayor of Hyderabad
Your Highness the Aga Khan
Distinguished Guests
Staff and students of the Aga Khan Academy, Hyderabad and staff and students at the Academies in Mombasa and Maputo who are witnessing this programme live via webcast

Good afternoon and welcome.

It is my great privilege to welcome you to the Inauguration of the Aga Khan Academy, Hyderabad — the second of three institutions in our growing network of Aga Khan Academies.

In addition to our eminent Chief Guests, we have amongst us today an extraordinarily distinguished audience of people from all over India and the world. Your presence here underscores the unique place the Aga Khan Academy will have in the future of Andhra Pradesh and India.

In 2005, when a centre of excellence in education was still just a concept, the Government of Andhra Pradesh saw the power of His Highness’s vision — a vision for high quality education for students of all backgrounds. The Government of Andhra Pradesh has helped make that vision a reality by contributing this magnificent site and allowing the Academy the flexibility to formulate the policies necessary to achieve the vision for excellence in education.

We are confident the Academy will be a source of pride, and its graduates will become strong, ethical leaders who will brighten the future of this state and India as a whole. We sincerely hope that the Government views the quality and scale of this project, now and in the years to come, as a powerful vindication of your valuable support. Thank you.

We can already see the Academy’s vision coming to life. Pluralism is being lived in the residences through strong friendships amongst very diverse students. Those from Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Gujarat share a room – and their lives – with others from Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, Myanmar, Dubai and the United States. Christians, Hindus and Muslims are close friends, having supported one another from their very first days on campus. Students from well-to-do families are friends with others who receive substantial scholarship support. On any given day, you can hear these students calling home in many languages and dialects. Their parents, also from very diverse backgrounds, are getting to know each other.

All Academy students are here based on individual merit. Their family backgrounds and socioeconomic circumstances do not condition the quality of their education. Nearly 50 percent of the students receive some level of financial aid. The Academy is one pluralistic learning community.

Learning at the Academy extends well beyond the classroom. Through active engagement in the rich co-curricular, residential, and service programmes, students begin to see themselves as leaders who can make a difference in the world around them.

Our students are already making a positive impact. Several of our current IB Diploma students participated in summer service internships with agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network. For example, one student interned with the Aga Khan Planning and Building Services in Hyderabad to analyse water usage in urban households. Another examined livelihoods of marginalised communities with the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme in Gujarat. Their work and research demonstrate sophisticated thinking and excellent analysis of real-world problems.

The Academy is also making an impact on education and teachers through our Professional Development Centre’s Outreach Programme. To date, the Academy has worked with over 80 schools and over 100 teachers in Hyderabad and Ranga Reddy District. We have provided training in mathematics, the teaching of languages and early childhood education. The State Director for the National Primary Programme has formally commended the quality of these programmes.

This quality has been assured in part thanks to the valuable experience we have gained from running similar programmes in Kenya. Being part of a larger network of academies allows us to share our research and learning.

The network also allows teachers and students to travel to experience life at another Academy. Living evidence of this are Shreelatha Kumar, Pragati Pandey, and Naini Singh, staff who were previously at Aga Khan schools in East Africa. The connections actually go back even further. Naini’s father, Mr Basu, was my physics teacher at the Aga Khan Secondary School in Dar es Salaam. We are happy to see service to Aga Khan Education as a family tradition!

On behalf of over 1,000 faculty, staff and students, and many generous volunteers across six continents, we would like to thank Your Highness for giving us the opportunity to contribute toward making the Aga Khan Academies a reality and for the serious attention you pay to their development.

This Academy is a testament to your magnificent vision. It marks the coming together, in common purpose, of hundreds of people who share the belief that our talented young people are a source of hope for the future. The impact of the centre of excellence we are inaugurating today, inshallah, will extend and endure beyond our lives and reach many generations to come.

Thank you for being here today – and thank you to each and every one who has contributed to realising His Highness’s vision for the Aga Khan Academy, Hyderabad.