Address by Chief Guest Dr Kilemi Mwiria,
Assistant Minister of Higher Education
The Chairman of the Board, Ambassador Saidullah Khan Dehlavi,
Members of the Board of Trustees,
President, Mr Firoz Rasul,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is with great pleasure and a deep sense of fulfillment that I join you on this momentous occasion of the Seventh Convocation Ceremony of the Aga Khan University. I am here to celebrate with you the release of well-trained graduates to the service of our nation, the EAC region and international community.
During this graduation ceremony of The Aga Khan University, I am informed that 91 graduands in the fields of medicine and nursing will receive degrees and diplomas to mark the end of a rigorous and exciting academic experience at AKU. You have worked hard and made us proud. I congratulate you all. I also congratulate faculty and other members of staff who have guided you in your academic journey to this day. Your families have been there for you, and they too deserve our recognition, appreciation, and of course, congratulations.
On behalf of the Government, I would like to extend our deep appreciation to the Chancellor of the Aga Khan University, His Highness the Aga Khan, for his immense contribution to the development of education in Kenya, the East African Region and the world at large. Indeed, the commitment of His Highness to the region through the Aga Khan Development Network reaches back over 100 years from a humble beginning to the well-respected system of Aga Khan Schools, health services as well as initiatives for economic development and cultural preservation.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we as a country are proud of the tremendous contribution to the development of education in this country by the Aga Khan school network. With a youth population of 24 million in Kenya today, partners who support the development of education become even more important in helping us address this growing demand. It is only when we can meet the demand for education and achieve economic development shall we retain the young bright minds such as those graduating today to stem brain drain from this nation.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to see that the commitment of the Aga Khan Development Network and the Aga Khan University, in particular, is not slowing in the near future. The plans by the Aga Khan University to establish new campuses and programmes here in Kenya will further serve the region in innovative ways and yield a positive impact for the communities of East Africa. Shiny new buildings are not always the hallmark of a quality education. A solid curriculum, leading teaching and learning practices, fair assessment and evaluation systems define a quality institution. This is what will help to develop quality human resource, to support the realisation of our national goals.
To the graduands: this day marks the culmination of a lifelong process of personal and intellectual development. During your time at AKU, I am sure that you have learnt technical skills not only to become competent nurses and doctors but also leaders.
The ability to be a strong leader is driven by intrinsic qualities, attitude and behavior. It comes from the ability to think critically; to inspire those around you with knowledge, not just charisma; to be willing to be held accountable; and to make no compromise on ethics. Today as you graduate ask yourself - are you that leader? Now that you will be moving into the next phase of your life, equipped with new knowledge and skills, you will be expected to take on new challenges.
I wish to urge you not to shy away from these responsibilities. As you go forward, seek out new opportunities for intellectual growth and leadership. Seize them and use them to benefit yourself, your families and your country.
Distinguished Guests, so far, there have already been efforts towards harmonisation of education within the region. At the tertiary level, the Inter University Council for East Africa (IUCEA), which is a collaborative framework for universities, has instituted a credit accreditation system and a quality assurance programme for public and private higher education institutions. These measures are intended to increase inter-institutional dialogue and also develop common benchmarks for regional collaboration. IUCEA is also working on degree classification requirements and harmonization of programmes, which will further facilitate recognition of qualifications and intra-regional movement of students and lecturers.
We will require concerted efforts to mitigate issues relating to: infrastructure development; form and depth of programme design and implementation; capacity to create strong higher education, research and knowledge areas; as well as support for expensive disciplines of innovation, science and technology. This notwithstanding, the future is bright for higher education not only in Kenya but also within East Africa and beyond. I therefore encourage Aga Khan Development Network to continue creating pressure for innovation through development of higher education and increased investment in research activities. Specifically, there should be concerted effort to prepare PhD level scientists and engineers through university-based research networks and active involvement in support for conferences where knowledge can be generated and shared. In addition, there should be increased academia engagement in policy making, think tanks, vision setting, and research and consultancy.
Ladies and gentlemen, you will attest to the fact that on its part, the government has substantially increased investment in enabling infrastructure, such as energy, telecommunications, and information technology to open up all sectors of the economy. I therefore urge all investors in the education sector to explore and exploit the potential that this infrastructure presents for emerging alternative approaches to classroom based teaching. Models such as virtual and open distance learning, sandwich programmes, staggered learning and regional research initiatives, to enable us expand access to education to reach the hard to reach and to meet demand for continuous learning should be embraced.
As a ministry, we assure you of our commitment to negotiate the opening up of more programmes, and to initiate projects that aim to increase access and promote equity. In addition we will continue to dialogue with key stakeholders to formulate appropriate policy frameworks at national and regional levels.
Distinguished graduates, allow me to take this moment to extend a personal congratulatory message to each one of you. As you have realised, it is a well-deserved accomplishment to which a lot of effort and hard work has been invested. You are graduating at an exciting time when opportunities for employment are expanding as a result of the East African integration. As graduates of East Africa, you will be able to access employment opportunities across the region. Already there are friendly provisions in terms of work permits and rights of establishment and residence. I urge you to seize the opportunities that this presents. It is also expected that you will be ambassadors of Kenya, who will be opening the way for generations to come. You therefore have a duty and responsibility to exercise impeccable degree of professionalism and observe work and social ethics befitting the nation.
As I conclude Ladies and Gentlemen, I once again wish the new graduates success in all their future endeavors and sincerely thank the Aga Khan Development Network for its confidence and continued support to the development of Education in Kenya and the region.
Thank you and may God bless you all.