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The East African : Mar 1st 2015
The EastAfrican OUTLOOK FEBRUARY 28 - MARCH 6, 2015 EXPANSION OF HIGHER EDUCATION Civil society key to improving quality of life The Aga Khan ave≥s that a healthy civil society is a me≥itoc≥atic one, whe≥e ethics a≥e honou≥ed, and excellence is valued By CHURCHILL OTIENO The EastAfrican Africa would improve if civil society embraced quality and was more ethical, and this is driving the Aga Khan University’s bold expansion in the region. “More and more, I am con- T vinced that the key to improving the quality of human life — both in places that are gifted with good governments and in places that are not so fortunate — is the quality of what I describe as civil society,” said the Aga Khan. He defines civil society as an array of institutions that are neither public nor profit driven, but which are motivated by voluntary commitments and dedicated to the public good: “They include institutions dedicated to culture, to public information, to the environment and to religious faith. And they include, very importantly, the fields of health and education.” The hereditary spiritual lead- er of the Shia Ismaili Muslims holds that quality civil society organisations are critical if human life across the world, especially in the developed world, is to be improved. He avers that a healthy civil society is a meritocratic one, where ethics are honoured, and excellence is valued. “And the great question confronting us here in Africa is how rapidly the institutions of a healthy civil society can be established and reinforced.” Key question This is a question he, as the chancellor of the university, has assigned AKU to help solve as it advances and shares new knowledge. It is also a question the university that will distinguish the university from a sea of institutions currently jostling for space in the market of East Africa higher education. On February 23, the univer- sity became the first foreign one to be given a charter by the Tanzanian government. Following 15 years of existence in East Africa, it has announced a $1 billion expansion plan, the largest private investment in higher education in the region’s history, that will see the establishment of eight graduate schools in the five countries. The Aga Khan University, has a crucial role in helping realise the quality of civil society organisations that both the developed and the developing worlds need to confront the future. East Africa is witnessing a boom in university education. This manifests in the multitudes of energetic youth who pour onto the streets of its cities every evening trekking from evening classes, and the millions of dollars coming from entrepreneurs pockets to set up private colleges. But where there is a rush, quality suffers, and this may just be the differentiating niche for he Aga Khan believes that the quality of life in East 39 His Highness The Aga Khan at the launch of the Aga Khan University in Tanzania. Left, the university staff. Picture: Courtesy AKU. The Aga Khan said Tanza- nia was a special place for AKU since his grandfather, while serving as Imam of the Ismaili Muslim community, made education a top priority and started the first Aga Khan School in Africa over 110 years ago in Bagamoyo. “Like each of you personally, the university also remembers its heritage on a day like this. That heritage is rooted in the rich history of Islamic intellectual accomplishment — including the work of my own ancestors in ancient Cairo 1,000 years ago, when they founded the Azhar University and the Dar-ulilm — the House of Knowledge. This story continued over several centuries, as Muslim centres of scholarship and culture involved and inspired people of many traditions and faith communities. “And that same legacy was in our minds when we began planning for this new Aga Khan University,” he said.
Feb 23rd 2015
Mar 9th 2015