Address by ​Chief Guest​​

Hon. Ezekiel Machogu, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Education, Kenya

His Highness the Aga Khan
Princess Zahra Aga Khan
Chairman Moyez Alibhai, President and Vice Chancellor Sulaiman Shahabuddin, and Members of the Kenya University Council
Chairman Zakir Mahmood and members of the Board of Trustees
Distinguished guests
Graduands of the Aga Khan University:

It is with great pleasure that I join you in celebrating the graduation of the Class of 2023. This is a proud day for the graduates and their family members. It is also a proud day for Kenya. Today, our country is gaining a new crop of future leaders in education, nursing, medicine, and journalism. And so are Uganda, Tanzania, Pakistan and other nations. To all the members of the Class of 2023, whether in this room or in Kampala, Dar es Salaam, or Karachi, I offer my heartfelt congratulations on a job well done. 

I have great faith in this group of men and women. The reason for my faith is simple: I know what the Aga Khan University stands for. It stands for high standards, access based on merit, and service to society. AKU has been ranked among the top one percent of universities in the world in medicine. Its hospital has been a leader in meeting international standards of quality. I would like to congratulate all those working and studying at AKU and the Aga Khan University Hospital on earning a distinguished place in the global landscape of higher education and health care. You are showing the world what Kenya is capable of doing. You have made us proud as Kenyans.  

AKU is, of course, just one of countless investments that His Highness the Aga Khan has made in Kenya and its people. The institutions he has built in education, health care, finance, hospitality, media, manufacturing, infrastructure and other fields are pillars of their industries and an integral part of our social and economic fabric. AKU and its fellow agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network employ more than 15,000 Kenyans. Their services are utilized by millions of Kenyans every year. You could wake up and read the news, drop off your children at school, visit the doctor, go to work, and stop at the bank on your way home – all without ever leaving the Network’s institutions. 

I am very glad to have this opportunity to publicly thank His Highness for all that he has done over many decades to support Kenya’s development and improve quality of life. The Aga Khan Development Network’s roots in East Africa date back over a century, and I look forward to seeing it continue to prosper and benefit the region’s people for many years to come.

I would also like to acknowledge the support the Aga Khan University is providing to public institutions, ranging from donating vaccination equipment to helping to develop Kenya’s national nursing and midwifery policy. AKU is a private university, but it has a public spirit.

Graduands, it is right and proper that we celebrate the successful completion of your studies. It is not a small thing to call oneself a graduate of the Aga Khan University! But I would like to direct your attention to those of your peers who are unable to share in such a celebration – not because of lack of talent, but because of lack of opportunity.

Different individuals will have different views on what measures can best maximize opportunities for those individuals and communities which are struggling the most. It is only natural in a democratic society that there will be competing opinions on such important matters of public policy. What seems to me to be beyond dispute is that focused attention should be given to those at the bottom of the economic pyramid and their needs.

The future of Kenya and other countries depends, to a great extent, on their universities. At their best, universities are a powerhouse of knowledge, creating innovating and leadership. In times of trouble, we look to them as trusted sources of insight and information. Universities are one of the essential institutions of the 21st century. I wish to urge the Aga Khan University to devise methods of commercializing research and innovations, as I have been also challenging our other public universities and other private universities in this country. As a country, we need robust investments in strengthening our research infrastructure, incentivizing faculty engagement, and fostering fruitful collaboration with international partners. By prioritizing research excellence, we can generate cutting-edge knowledge that addresses both local and global challenges, ultimately propelling Kenya to its right place as a knowledge-based society. 

Ladies and gentlemen, Kenyan universities are witnessing a surge in the number of graduating students. In 2023 alone, 22,744 undergraduate students graduated from our local universities. This rising number of graduands has also been felt at the graduate level, where 455 students graduated with doctorate degrees. Although these numbers are not comprehensive as they were sourced from only 53 institutions out of the existing 75, amidst data protection challenges, they highlight our commitment to fostering a highly skilled workforce equipped to thrive in the global knowledge economy. 

While applauding the commendable rise in the number of degrees awarded last year, we must underscore the paramount importance of quality in institutions of higher education. The current staff to student ratio is 1:36, against the UNESCO recommended standard of 1:20. The disparity in faculty to student ratio directly impacts the ability to provide personalized learning, and effective mentorship essential for nurturing the next generation of Kenyan leaders. Therefore, we must prioritize strategic faculty development and targeted recruitment, ensuring our educators possess the necessary resources to cultivate future national talent. 

As you emerge from your student days, I hope that you will seize every opportunity to teach the next generation and expand the boundaries of knowledge. I hope that you will carry the standards you have absorbed at AKU into other universities and institutions and brighten their future.

With these remarks, I once again, wish all the graduands the best in your endeavours. Well done and God bless you.