Speech by Mr Firoz Rasul, President, AKU
Kenya Charter Granting Ceremony of the Aga Khan University
Your Excellency Honorable Uhuru Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya;
His Highness the Aga Khan, Founder and Chancellor of the Aga Khan University;
The Aga Khan University family, supporters and friends:
The inauguration of the University Centre is a milestone whose importance to the Aga Khan University, and to Kenya, is signified by the presence of Your Excellency President Kenyatta. Thank you once again, Your Excellency, for joining us today.
We have heard the University’s Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan, express his gratitude to the Government for its confidence in the Aga Khan University. AKU is also confident – confident in Kenya and its people, whose talent and hunger for knowledge are the foundation upon which this University is built. Indeed, it is because we are so confident in Kenya and its future that we have built the University Centre we are inaugurating today.
The Centre will be the springboard that launches a new era in the Aga Khan University’s history in Kenya – an era that will witness the fulfillment of our ambitious plans for growth and impact. It will serve as the University’s principal campus in Kenya, bringing together in one place for the first time our Medical College, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Graduate School of Media and Communications, Institute for Human Development, Brain and Mind Institute and other programmes. It will enable us to establish new academic degree programmes, implement new research projects, and substantially expand our enrollment. And we will continue our financial assistance programme to enable students who cannot afford the tuition fees to attend our University.
The Centre is one of the largest investments in higher education in Kenya’s recent history, encompassing 37,500 square metres or 400,000 square feet, and constructed and equipped at a cost of US$ 50 million or more than 5.3 billion Ksh. It features two towers with a total of 23 floors above and below ground, making it an example of a best-in-class vertical urban campus. Approximately 2,000 Kenyans were employed in designing, building, and equipping this facility.
But more than its size or its budget, it is the convictions that the University Centre embodies that make it so significant.
At the Aga Khan University, we believe that Kenyans deserve the very best. The Centre was designed by the internationally renowned architecture firm Payette of Boston based in USA. In addition to AKU’s other campuses, Payette has designed buildings for some of the world’s leading universities, including Harvard, MIT, Princeton, and Columbia. Payette was ably supported by the local architecture firm Symbion and construction was carried out to exacting standards by Kenya’s Laxmanbhai Construction Limited.
We believe that education must evolve to keep pace with changing times and changing demands. Therefore, our classrooms are equipped with the latest technology for teaching and learning. Our laboratories are state-of-the-art. Our Graduate School of Media and Communications features a multimedia newsroom alongside radio and TV studios. And we are investing US$ 2.5 million, or 270 million Ksh, to create East Africa’s first cutting-edge facility for simulation-based health education on the University Centre’s first floor.
The Centre for Innovation in Medical Education will enable our nursing and medical students to hone their clinical skills using incredibly lifelike patient mannequins in highly realistic hospital settings. Students will be able to practice everything from delivering babies to caring for patients with highly contagious diseases such as COVID-19. As a result, our students will be exceptionally well-prepared for the real-world challenges they will face.
We also believe that education and knowledge creation are social and collective endeavours. Today, research is typically collaborative, often interdisciplinary, and increasingly international in scope. Hence, we have designed the University Centre to stimulate interaction and intellectual exchange.
We have courtyards, terraces, a stunning atrium, and an outdoor amphitheatre – all spaces that will bring faculty, staff, students, and visitors together in settings that uplift and inspire. We have an exhibition hall and an auditorium with video conferencing and streaming systems that will enable us to convene researchers and members of the public from across Kenya and beyond. And we have that blend of diverse influences that characterizes the Aga Khan University – the distinctive red brick of Nairobi, teak from Sudan, patterns inspired by the architecture of the Islamic world, and the entrance portal that connects this campus to our campus in Karachi.
As it fills up, the University Centre will exude the cosmopolitan energy of a university at home in the 21st century, and eager to forge connections across borders and boundaries of all kinds. It will be an exciting place to work, to learn, to teach, and to expand the frontiers of knowledge, as we have done with the international clinical trials for treatments from COVID-19. Just as the Aga Khan University Hospital has been at the forefront of efforts to improve the quality of health care in East Africa through international standards and accreditation, AKU’s new campus will be at the centre of the drive to raise standards in university education and research.
That the University Centre is such a place is due to the efforts of many people. We cannot thank our Kenyan and international donors enough, because without their generosity this building would not have been possible. I am grateful to all those whose courage and dedication made it possible to complete this immense project despite the many challenges created by the pandemic. I also wish to thank the Ministry of Education and the Commission for University Education for their support and partnership.
Finally, I wish to thank our Founder and Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan, whose vision, inspiration, and insistence on uncompromising quality have enabled the University to make a tangible difference in so many people’s lives.
Thanks to all our supporters, the Aga Khan University will be educating leaders, advancing knowledge, and improving quality of life in Kenya from this one-of-a-kind building for many decades to come.