On 17 December, Dr Rafique Keshavjee presented a lecture entitled ‘Developing Resources for Teaching Programmes in the Humanities’at AKU-ISMC. Dr Keshavjee is the Head of Academic Planning at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Aga Khan University (AKU-FAS) in East Africa.
During his lecture, Dr Keshavjee spoke about the history of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and the hard work that has facilitated its development. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences will be based on a new campus in East Africa. It will support existing nursing and medical education programmes in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The campus will also serve the University's planned academic programmes for the Liberal Arts in East Africa.
Dr Keshavjee also discussed his involvement with the Aga Khan Humanities Project, a project which seeks to support the development and implementation of innovative humanities curricula based on world cultural traditions, including those of Central Asia. The Aga Khan Humanities Project in Central Asia, Dr Keshavjee explained, was an important precursor to the AKU-FAS in East Africa. The Aga Khan Humanities Project aims to explore traditions and cultures from the perspective of the humanities and social sciences. Dr Keshavjee worked on conceptualising the project, alongside Dr Azim Nanji, the former Director of the Institute of Ismaili Studies.
“Over the course of 12 months we listened to a range of different people – scholars, those in government, and those in the community – and we discovered that a kind of programme that educates about Islam in the context of different cultures and the humanities was very highly regarded.”
Dr Keshavjee also discussed the ethos and aims of the new AKU-FAS in Nairobi. He stated that it would be a small but fully fledged undergraduate and postgraduate university, similar in some ways to the Harvard University model.
“The focus of the school is leadership. What is required in society, more than ever, is good leaders. From a range of sources, we found that the reasons why this University should work in this particular way, is that it should be able to innovate in order to sustain itself over a long period of time.”
Dr Keshavjee also noted that in developing countries, universities need to build strong intellectual and ethical foundations.
“Rights and responsibilities, individual rights are today, a necessary foundation for moral citizenship. Rights need to be complimented by responsibilities – especially to the environment which precedes humanity by far.”
From this perspective, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences will offer a multidisciplinary approach to the study of the arts and sciences. These disciplines will seek to be integrated pedagogically, partially by shared teaching.
“The core curriculum will incorporate a range of subjects, including engineering, basic science, philosophy, the humanities, social sciences, mathematics and a few other disciplines, which will be integrated over two years.”
AKU-ISMC will work closely with AKU-FAS in order to further develop and strengthen its unique approach to Muslim cultures from the perspective of the humanities and social sciences. Academic and physical planning is at an advanced stage and AKU-FAS is expected to enrol its first group of students in 2008.
•Aga Khan University (AKDN)
•Aga Khan Humanities Project in Central Asia (AKDN)
•University of Central Asia
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Coordinator, Planning & Academic Development
Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations