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UCA and the Aga Khan Academies: Encouraging Academic Excellence Across the Region and the Globe
The UCA summer camp is a residential academic enrichment experience for grade 10 students from Central Asia. Over an intensive three-week period, participants upgraded their maths and English skills and received crucial assistance to the university application process.
AKA students Ganjina Vanjova, Zarina Mamadbekova and Alisher Kukanbekov, from Tajikistan, served as assistant counsellors to the 73 grade 10 students from the Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan and their home country of Tajikistan. The ambitious young counsellors helped mentor fellow Central Asian students and shared their experiences pursuing residential education away from home.
UCA and AKA share a commitment to world class education and merit-based admissions for exceptional young people from all backgrounds. Both institutions are rooted in rigorous academic programmes designed to foster an ethically and socially conscious outlook through coursework, community service and social entrepreneurship.
“Among the highlights of my own residential education is learning how to live in a new community, create a ‘family’ of fellow students and interact with other people,” assistant counsellor Ganjina Vanjova explained.
Ganjina left her hometown of Khorog, Tajikistan in 2011 to enrol in AKA Mombasa for secondary education. As an assistant counsellor at UCA Summer Camp, she encouraged participants to take advantage of the countless opportunities to learn from each other.
“At camp, I helped the counsellors prepare evening programmes, and I also encouraged participants to understand the importance of diversity, tolerance and pluralism, skills that I’ve learnt at school in Kenya while living in a diverse cultural environment,” she said.
“I am so glad that I came back to Central Asia, my cultural roots, and can now help other students from the region learn new concepts and ideas. Learning new skills and fully understanding how to think critically has been essential to my own education,” Zarina said.
Alisher Kukanbekov, who hopes to study engineering and become an architect, jumped at the opportunity to engage with like-minded young people.
“The wide range of activities that the counsellors designed for the students, including English and maths, sports, debating and evening programmes emphasising critical thinking, offered innovative approaches to teaching and learning,” Alisher said.
The counsellors also expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to continue their education and learn valuable lessons from the grade 10 participants, with whom they were close in age.
“As a naturally shy person, I also learnt from the participants the value of being outgoing. I decided to take chances and continue to push myself beyond my comfort zone,” said Ganjina.
For summer camp participants like Oleg Kim from Kazakhstan, the feelings of gratitude were mutual.
“Every evening at camp was special! Our counsellors treated us as equals and respected our opinion. They also cheered our achievements. And we tried our best to develop good business plans, write resumes, and interview each other. I appreciate what they have done for us a lot,” said Oleg.UCA is building three residential university campuses of equal size and stature in Naryn, Kyrgyz Republic; Khorog, Tajikistan; and Tekeli, Kazakhstan. In September 2016, UCA will enrol its first undergraduate class at the Naryn campus, offering integrative undergraduate degree programmes in Communications and Media and Computer Science. The campus in Khorog, Tajikistan, opening in 2017 will offer Economics and Earth and Environmental Sciences. The third campus in Tekeli, Kazakhstan is anticipated in 2019 and will offer Engineering Sciences and Business and Management.