On a sunny day in Kenya’s capital city, dignitaries, guests, and partners of the Aga Khan University (AKU) gathered for the granting of a new Charter for AKU in Kenya. They were joined by thousands of well-wishers via an online stream, on a day which also marked the official opening of the impressive University Centre in Nairobi.
These two new developments are a significant part of AKU’s evolving story, as it continues to expand its footprint in Kenya and across the region. The Ismaili Imamat has been working for many decades to improve quality of life in East Africa, dating back to the schools founded by Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah in the early 1900s.
“The long standing partnership between the Kenyan government, the Ismaili community, and the Aga Khan Development Network spans well over 100 years, and this relationship has brought about tremendous benefits to the welfare of many Kenyans across the country,” said President Kenyatta, shortly after signing the Charter and handing over the instruments of authority.
In recent decades, the Aga Khan University has played a major part in this effort, and its new Charter will enable an ever-growing contribution to education and knowledge in the coming years.
“The possibilities brought forth by education and knowledge drive dreams, fuel innovation, spur gender equality, and create limitless possibilities for individual as well as national progress,” the President continued.
Accepting the newly granted Charter, Mawlana Hazar Imam thanked President Kenyatta for his confidence in AKU and for “creating an enabling environment that has allowed AKU to flourish.”
“AKU has developed into an institution capable of delivering problem-solving knowledge, and of sharing its expertise with other organisations,” Hazar Imam said, via a broadcasted video message.
Since 2002, the University has educated thousands of doctors, nurses, teachers, and journalists — many of whom are now leaders in their respective fields, raising standards in their industries and across the region.
Today, AKU — along with other agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network — is a recognisable feature of society in East Africa in general, and in Kenya in particular. Yet, the institution remains ambitious and continues to symbolise continuing progress in the region.
Its newly inaugurated University Centre, standing proudly in the heart of Nairobi, is a testament to AKU’s aspiration, and presents a light and spacious physical location from which to train and produce cutting-edge innovation, critical thinking, and policy analysis.
“[The University Centre] will be an exciting place to work, to learn, to teach, and to expand the frontiers of knowledge,” said AKU President Firoz Rasul. “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 in Kenya.”
The new building includes laboratories, classrooms, studios, and a learning resource centre, all featuring state-of-the-art technology and multimedia facilities. The Centre also houses architectural features to stimulate interaction and intellectual exchange between faculty, staff, and students, including a large atrium, lush courtyard, outdoor amphitheatre, large terraces, exhibition hall, a café, and cantina.
Located across the street from the Aga Khan University Hospital and Darkhana Jamatkhana in Parklands, Nairobi, the University Centre will be AKU’s principal campus in Kenya, housing its Graduate School of Media and Communications, Medical College, School of Nursing and Midwifery, and Institute for Human Development. It will also be home to AKU’s new Brain and Mind Institute, which will conduct research for the improvement of mental health.
Mawlana Hazar Imam concluded his address by looking to the years ahead.
“As its student body and its faculty grow in size, its visibility and impact will increase, new programmes will come online, much about the Aga Khan University will change,” he said. “What will not change is its principle of uncompromising quality and its mission of improving quality of life in Kenya.”