Speech by Salim Bhatia, Director of Academies, at the 2016 graduation ceremony of the Aga Khan Academy Mombasa
Your Excellency Margaret Kenyatta, First Lady of the Republic of Kenya,
Mr Nelson Marwa, Coordinator Coast Region,
Mr Darius Agutu Mogaka, Director Policy, Partnerships and East African Affairs, Ministry of Education, Science & Technology,
Honourable guests, families, colleagues, and members of the graduating class of 2016 at the Aga Khan Academy Mombasa and the Aga Khan Academy Hyderabad,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good day and welcome.
As the Director of Academies, I am honoured to be with you today for the 2016 Aga Khan Academies graduation ceremony.
It is a pleasure to share in the celebration of this joyous occasion when families, friends, teachers and staff come together to pay tribute to our graduates, for their achievements, and encourage them as they look forward to the bright future ahead.
Indeed, these graduates are proof of what we can achieve together when outstanding teachers, dedicated staff and caring families encourage and support exceptional young people. I would like to thank you all for your role in our graduates’ success.
I would also like to mention how extremely pleased I am to see in Mombasa a number of Academies’ alumni with us here today. May I ask you to please stand?
I urge everyone here to take the opportunity to interact with our alumni after today’s ceremony to find out more about the exciting paths they are currently pursuing.
Today’s graduation is a special milestone for the Aga Khan Academies programme because this class of 2016 is the 10th class of Academies graduates.
In that time, students have received over fifteen million dollars in financial aid to attend the Academies. That is the equivalent of nearly 1.5 billion Kenyan shillings and one billion rupees, or as you say it in India, 100 crore, Indian rupees. This financial support has allowed students to access the Aga Khan Academies’ international standard of education based on merit alone and regardless of their family’s social or economic situation.
We are especially grateful to His Highness the Aga Khan for his vision and financial support to launch the Academies programme, as well as, to our individual, government and corporate donors – some of whom are here with us today in Mombasa and in Hyderabad – for their tremendous generosity.
Nearly a decade ago, shortly after the first Academies graduation and as we laid the foundation stone for the student residences here at the Aga Khan Academy Mombasa, His Highness the Aga Khan spoke these words:
“Our central hope for the programme is that when students leave the Academies, they will move on to high quality universities – and then to positions of social leadership. As they go through life, we expect them to reflect the central values of the programme – a strong ethical orientation, a sense of personal discipline and civic obligation, and an appreciation for diversity and pluralism.”
Today, graduates, you join a decade, a decade, of those who have come before you and now become Aga Khan Academies alumni.
Many of you will be continuing your education at prestigious universities around the world. That includes the first 10 Academies graduates selected for full tuition-fee waivers at universities in Ontario, Canada, as part of our partnership with the Province of Ontario.
Others among you will take a gap year to engage in exceptional service and internship opportunities in fields such as tourism, banking and development, offered by our sister agencies in the Aga Khan Development Network.
No matter what your plans, as you embark on this next phase of your lives, I encourage you to consider how you can continue to put His Highness’s vision for you into action and improve the quality of life for people within your communities and your society.
While positive change can take shape in many ways, it is undoubtedly rooted in the efforts and leadership of individuals; individuals, who are committed to a better world and brighter future; individuals, who are willing to look beyond themselves to mitigate the plight of those in need.
Of course, even when equipped with the right tools, bringing about positive change is not easy. It takes hard work, commitment and perseverance.
Today’s distinguished keynote speaker in Mombasa knows something about that first-hand.
Her Beyond Zero campaign to eliminate maternal and child mortality and HIV/AIDS has already encountered great success, due largely to her compassion for the vulnerable, to see that they may have access to services, and her personal commitment of time and energy to convert it to action.
We see this determination most publicly when she – most impressively – runs marathons.
When interviewed by a journalist as she and her team prepared in 2014 for the London marathon, Her Excellency Mrs Kenyatta said, “We have to finish; walking is allowed.” Then she added, “If you get tired, you walk a bit and then you run again.”
Graduates, be willing to challenge yourself. Push your limits and boundaries to bring about positive change in our world. You will encounter setbacks and at times you may only be able to walk, not run. But, keep going. You have to finish.
And, when you achieve your goal, when you know you have done something that seemed unattainable at the start, you know that the only limits to your achievements are those you set for yourself.
By completing your education at the Aga Khan Academy, you have already proven that you are capable of taking on lofty challenges and succeeding. So continue looking for opportunities to help the world around you. Lead by example. Share your passion for service with others, and they will support your endeavours.
Use your potential to make your dreams a reality and to strive for a better world.