Shaheed Hajiyani: Learning to be a Global Citizen | Aga Khan Academies

Shaheed Hajiyani: Learning to be a Global Citizen

Shaheed Hajiyani was in the midst of playing cricket outside of his home in India when he learnt he had been accepted at the Aga Khan Academy in Hyderabad, India.

“This was the moment my life took a new turn,” he states. “I was euphoric. My whole family was very happy, and to celebrate we all went out to eat dinner that night.”

Since being admitted, the young 10th grader states he has made remarkable progress toward discovering who he truly is through self-awareness and self-reflection, all of which he attributes to the two years spent at Academy. He says it was his experience at the Academy that forced him to rewrite his old script and rethink his old ways of looking at life.

“It has definitely taught me how to open my eyes a little wider and to be a global citizen. In the two years I have been going to the Academy, I have changed the way I look at the world around me. These values have been instilled in me through the experiences I have gained at school by volunteering at Caring Hands for Animals, and teaching English to a worker at the Academy.”

Extracurricular activities are an integral part of every student’s life at the Academy. Shaheed has participated in a number of additional activities including playing basketball and being part of the yearbook committee. Of these, he cites two particular activities that he cherishes that have helped him “unveil a hidden talent.”

“Through the yearbook committee and teaching English, I found a talent I did not know I possessed: writing.”

The programmes at the Academy are designed to embody the best of what public service should be.  Shaheed states his time at the Academy has taught him to take pause and reflect on how he can contribute to society.

“Growing up in this fast-paced society, there are multitudes of events happening, not only around the world, but in India itself. In this Academy, we have all learnt to take a minute and give back.”

In addition, Shaheed feels the values of modesty and humility he has acquired while learning have resonated with him and made him appreciate what he has. They have transformed his old beliefs and his old thinking.

“The Academy has taught me to appreciate the simplicity of life and to learn to be thankful.”

Shaheed was born in India but grew up for most of his young life in the United States. His family moved back to India when he was 12 years old. He states he was initially unhappy about moving back home until he became part of the Academy.

“Moving to India was a drastic change for all of us. Then we heard about the Academy and when I first came for my interview at the school, I was speechless. The Academy is a place where I feel at home. The Academy is somewhere I believe I fit in.”

Shaheed credits the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum for his growth and personal development so far. 

“The IB is a curriculum like no other. It focuses on developing students to become leaders of society by focusing not only on 'academic' subjects but also by inculcating in them elements from personal projects, theory of knowledge, and the Creativity, Action and Service (CAS) programme. The IB programme empowers students to think rather than just memorise.”

Shaheed adds that his family also is very happy with the Academy and what it offers.

“My family is very supportive and very fond of the Academy. They have said that ever since I joined the Academy, I have become less shy and very interactive and they soon hope to enroll my sister, Sonia, into the Academy.”

Talking about his future aspirations, Shaheed states his dreams are to pursue higher learning in the United States. He says he loves public speaking and, in fact, won the outstanding delegate award at the school’s Model United Nations (MUN) project, whose goal, in part, is to help students develop their debating skills.

“In the future I have a goal to be able to attend Stanford University. I enjoy public speaking, and I won the outstanding delegate award in the Aga Khan Academy Hyderabad's MUN 2015. And I wish to pursue this in the future.”

Asked what problem he would like to tackle for his country, Shaheed is resolute in his response.

“Poverty. I wouldn’t say I could eradicate poverty, but I would definitely like to increase the literate population of the country. Coming from a country such as the United States where promises and wishes were always granted, it was rather shocking to see the brutal sight of poverty. What I once saw on Discovery Channel metamorphosed into reality through the screens of my eyes. Every time I go for a ride around the town or I walk to a nearby store to get some food, I see either an old man on the side of the road begging or a woman carrying her baby and going from car to car asking for some money for food. These images of these people are something that has been imprinted in my head, and every time I think about it, it makes me sad. I hope to change this in the future. I cannot promise that everyone will be rich but no one should have to starve and that is what I would focus on.“

By Perviz Walji