Address by Chief Guest Syed Qaim Ali Shah
Chief Minster, Government of Sindh
Members of the Board of Trustees
President Firoz Rasul
Provost Dr William Doe
Faculty and Staff of the University
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you, Mr President, for inviting me to speak today on such an important occasion.
To the graduates and their families, hearty congratulations! You have worked hard to be here today. We are all very proud of your accomplishment. I would also like to congratulate your families who supported you in your education and the faculty members who have worked hard to set high standards of education and teaching here in Pakistan.
You have invited me here to speak on the occasion of the 21st convocation of the University. I would like to reflect for a moment on what AKU has brought to Pakistan in its 25 years.
When the Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan, first chartered the University in 1983, it was the first private international university in Pakistan. Many did not know what to expect from this institution.
From the building model and the construction of the Stadium Road campus, AKU began to set a new quality standard for itself and other institutions around it. The jalli woodwork and filigree gates represent historic art forms. The scale of the doors and entranceways remind us daily of the greatness of Allah.
As an institute for higher learning, the University offered its students a transparent, merit-based admissions process. Any eligible student could apply to the University regardless of their ability to pay the tuition fees. AKU introduced the first professional nursing programme in the country. Five years later, it graduated a class of medical students. For the first time in Pakistan, these students had the chance to gain an international standard education, without leaving their homes. In 1993 the opening of the IED brought professional teacher training and education to people who work with our most precious resource; our children. In each aspect the Aga Khan University has raised the bar and encouraged other organizations to do the same.
But other than the students, has AKU really had an effect on Sindh? I would say the answer is a resounding "yes". This institution has had a profound effect. Let's take one example where the University has introduced an innovative model of patient care; combining social work with healthcare.
Through that model, the people of Sindh have benefitted from you as medical and nursing students. As students, you have worked in the community health centres caring for those who might not otherwise have access to quality healthcare. Children and teachers have benefitted in their classrooms from the teaching techniques that AKU-IED students have introduced to them. These are the immediate impacts of your education on the society around you.
You are graduating today from an institution that has set high standards, been a role model and made an impact on the community around it. Be proud of that heritage.
Today, Pakistan is going through tremendous change. The country today is very different from the one that existed when you entered the university. And the challenges we face as a country are deeper and more pressing in the face of the worldwide economic crisis.
As a new government in office, we recognize the dire need to improve education and create opportunities for economic development and prosperity of Pakistan. Initiatives such as Education City will help us accomplish these goals. The Aga Khan University will again be part of this initiative when its new Faculty of Arts and Sciences opens in Education City.
And what will be the impact of AKU? Through innovative programmes, this new faculty will develop new leaders for Pakistan - those equipped with critical thinking skills and a global outlook to feed the global skills shortage and provide opportunities for Pakistan.
Today, you are among 276 fellow students who will graduate from this pre-eminent institution. You have developed skills and know-how that will be of great value to you and your country. While many of you may be considering leaving Pakistan for further studies, I would implore you to think about staying or retuning to your country, to serve your country. This country needs leaders like you to provide direction and skill to Pakistani society.
Remember that you are graduating today from an institution which has a very strong history. Even in its short life, the University has proven its ability to make an impact in the lives it touches. It has made a difference in your life. But the future of this institution now also depends on you - what you accomplish, the difference you make in the world and your ability to remain humble in the face of success. You are now a representation of the institution you have come from.
If I can leave you with a closing thought, it is this: remember your roots. As you prepare to venture into the world, remember the values and history that has shaped you, pay homage to those that have worked hard before you and give willingly your knowledge and time so that others can benefit from you.
Thank you very much.