Address by Mr Firoz Rasul

President, Aga Khan University

Chief Guest, Your Excellency Ali Hassan Mwinyi, Retired President of the United Republic of Tanzania,
Chairman of the Board, Ambassador Saidullah Khan Dehlavi,
Trustees of the University,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Deans, Faculty and Staff of the University,
Graduands and students,
Parents and Distinguished Guests,

Hamjambo, Karibuni and Good Morning.

Welcome to the Convocation Ceremony of the Aga Khan University, Tanzania Institute of Higher Education, Class of 2010. To the graduates and their families: This is a day of great celebration as you pass this important milestone.

Today you will be conferred with a degree that recognises your mastery of a professional field, which at AKU means mastery at an international standard. You have earned that degree through hard work and commitment. Congratulations!

We have among our graduates today, 57 students who have earned their Diploma in General Nursing, 47 Bachelor of Science in Nursing graduates and 28 Master of Education graduates. We are proud of each one of you. As the sixth graduating class of Aga Khan University in Tanzania, you are following what is already an auspicious tradition of alumni from AKU.

Today, you will follow in the footsteps of Anthony Gioko, a graduate of the Aga Khan University and recent winner of the 2010 Innovative Teacher Award at the Pan-African Innovative Education Forum. Anthony and his colleagues are working to realise the mission of this University; that is to build capacity in East Africa for the long-term growth of the region.

The Aga Khan University is expanding at a critical point in this region’s history.

East Africa today is poised for significant growth and development. Economists predict that Sub-Saharan Africa will be one of the fastest-growing regions of the world in 2011. At the same time, East Africa is going through substantial change, as it transforms into a single economic community. Each member country is assessing the opportunities and challenges related to this change, such as the competition for limited resources as well as the ability to provide economic opportunities for their growing populations. While the East African Community was established to create synergy and scale, on the cusp of this change, many are asking: how will we offer equality of opportunity to all our people and enable them to raise their quality of life?

The answer lies in our ability to create and harness capacity in the abundant human potential that exists here.

How? With high quality education.

East Africa’s success as a region is dependent on our ability to cultivate young people who can seize this transformation; capable leaders who understand the needs of the region, but are equally qualified to understand global trends. This region needs critical thinkers, innovators and job-creators who are also committed to the service of society through ethical actions.

With this in mind, our vision is to create a unique regional university covering all the countries of the EAC; an institution of higher learning that will develop these thought-leaders and entrepreneurs; a valuable partner in meeting the needs of the region.

To achieve this, we are working closely with the national governments and the Inter-University Council for East Africa, the regional body for higher education.

AKU is already making an impact in the region through its programmes and services of international quality. For example, the Postgraduate Medical Education programme to train doctors to become specialists serving the region from Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, graduated its first cohort of paediatricians and obstetricians last week. We expect that these specialists will play a leadership role in achieving maternal and child health priorities and the Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5. As well, this year the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi will open the Heart and Cancer Centre to provide treatments for heart diseases and cancers currently not available in East Africa.

As you can see, AKU is orienting its programmes to reach across the region. The Institute for Educational Development, based here in Dar es Salaam, is working with schools in Kampala, Kisumu and Turiani to help its teachers raise the quality of education through improvements in teaching, curriculum and assessments. In the past three years, our Institute for Educational Development has helped almost 800 educators across 287 schools.

In the same way, Aga Khan University Advanced Nursing Programme is helping working nurses in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya upgrade their knowledge and clinical skills to improve nursing practices in hospitals and clinics. Partial scholarships that were awarded to 60 per cent of these students helped them complete their programme and employers saw enough improvement in their clinical and leadership skills that 96 per cent of our students received a promotion upon graduation. Comprehensive initiatives, such as these, serve to build human capacity in the towns and villages across East Africa.

As a University, we realise that we must educate our students today for jobs and roles that may not exist yet. For this reason, AKU’s innovative curriculum instils critical thinking skills in our students and teaches them how to continue learning well into their careers. In this way, our graduates can adapt to changing opportunities. For example, the recently announced AKU Graduate School of Media and Communications will teach students about being knowledgeable and responsible journalists, employing ethical practices in their conventional and newly emerging media technologies and enterprises. Similarly, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences to be established in Arusha, will draw undergraduates from East Africa to obtain a broad based multidisciplinary education. The residential liberal education program will serve to inculcate in our students a sense of accountability to the people, and stewardship for the environment; all this through socially responsible economic growth of the region.

In addition to thinking about what we teach, we also think about how we teach our students to learn across disciplines. By connecting our students with the community as part of their classroom experience, they are able to understand how the traditions and histories of this region can help solve current social and economic challenges. Our emphasis on early human development helps students understand that when infant mortality rates go down in a community, it occurs because there is clean water and food available, but also because mothers are literate and fathers have job prospects in the community.

As AKU expands to become a comprehensive university in the region, it will continue to value quality over quantity. Our purpose is to contribute to the intellectual development of the region through offering international standard education in East Africa, so that students don’t have to leave the region. To build research and development here, to prevent the brain drain by offering professionals opportunities equivalent to those they seek in the west. This is how AKU will build the human potential of the region to create competent, compassionate and ethical leaders for business, government, social sector and civil society.

Graduates, today is your day; celebrate what you have achieved and be proud of it.

You are graduating today from a reputed international university; one with a history and track record of success in developing high quality graduates who are also leaders. As you embark on this new phase in your life, uphold the leadership qualities you enhanced at AKU and mark your work with the very highest in personal and professional ethics. Challenge what is not working.

Ask questions - even when the questions are difficult and the answers elusive. Give generously of your time and knowledge, sharing what you have learnt, in the service of others. Above all else, make no compromise on quality. You are graduating from an institution that consciously built its reputation on high standards and an adherence to its values. Build your own reputation in the same way.

Make us proud.

As you go on to the next adventure, we will be there to support you and I hope that you, too, will come back to AKU to help us build a bright future for East Africa. We will follow your progress and your successes with great anticipation and expectation.

Asanteni Sana and Thank You.

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