Aga Khan Academy Mombasa celebrates 20 years of excellence | Aga Khan Academies

Aga Khan Academy Mombasa celebrates 20 years of excellence

19 February 2024

The Aga Khan Academy Mombasa in Kenya celebrated its 20th anniversary on Monday, 19 February in the presence of Princess Zahra Aga Khan. Established in 2003, the Academy in Mombasa was inaugurated by His Highness the Aga Khan, the founder and chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), and the former late president of Kenya, Mwai Kibaki. It is the first in an integrated, global network of residential schools known as the Aga Khan Academies, with other campuses located in Hyderabad, India, Maputo, Mozambique and Dhaka, Bangladesh. 

The event was also attended by AKDN leadership, donors, students and staff. It featured student performances, speeches, long service awards recognising staff and faculty, a cake cutting, and a film viewing showcasing the Academy’s journey over the past 20 years. Following the event, guests were invited for a tour of the 18-acre campus, followed by lunch.

“Schools are optimistic places,” Princess Zahra said. “Although young people go through many challenging transitions in their lives, we aim to make the Academy a positive and memorable experience for all, one that helps young people to set the right course for their lives and build their character and attributes as leaders. The purpose of schooling here then, is not merely to support students to pass exams to enable them to enter the next phase of their education. Of course, exams are important, but the Academy embarked on a broader ambition, one that is at the heart of AKDN’s work for the betterment of society.”

For the past 20 years, the Academy has been an integral part of the community and beyond by providing high-quality education and developing homegrown, ethical leaders. With a curriculum based on the globally recognised International Baccalaureate (IB), graduates have progressed to prestigious universities around the world, such as Yale University, African Leadership University, Tufts University, Georgetown University in Qatar and more, and have been awarded over $48 million in scholarships since 2016.

The Academies have a strong service learning programme and encourage students to continue supporting positive changes in their communities beyond graduation. Amongst the many alumni contributing: Samara Visram, Class of 2014, who is building a school in Kikambala, Kenya; and Ham Serunjogi, Class of 2012, a Forbes 30 Under 30 honuree who has been appointed to serve as an advisor to the US president on African diaspora engagement. 

“From the beginning, the Academy has asked students not just to be leaders but to be ethical leaders,” said Head of Academy Colin Webster. “This is something the world often feels in short supply of. More than anything we prepare our students to go out and live in a pluralistic world.” 

As part of the Academies mission, the Academy admits students based on merit, regardless of their ability to pay, with about 50 percent of the students receiving some form of financial assistance. This enables students from various socio-economic backgrounds to study at the Academy, with some joining the residential programme, which has students from Kenya, Uganda, Tajikistan, the US, Tanzania, Canada and more.

“When I came to the Academy, I was shown how to be open-minded, how to be adventurous, creative, how to not just be confined into that comfort zone that limits me and what I could achieve,” said Raphael Mwachiti, Class of 2021, who received a full scholarship for seven years through its Talent Identification Programme and is studying at the University of British Columbia.

In addition to providing high-quality education, the Academy invests in its teachers. Weekly training on up-to-date teaching practices is provided to the staff and faculty, 90 percent of whom are Kenyan. The Academy also aims to have a wider impact in the country and houses a Professional Development Centre (PDC) that invests substantially in professional learning for teachers at local government schools. Since its establishment in 2010, the PDC has partnered with over 1,500 schools in Kenya, with more than 11,150 external educators completing programmes with the PDC. 

“The Academy has offered me a challenging and exciting environment,” said Mary Nyandieka, an integrated humanities and geography teacher, who has been teaching at the Academy since it was established. “Professional development has been a part of my weekly routine, which has helped me improve my teaching. The ability to be a learner, along with my students, is wonderful. The Academy is an excellent place to grow as a teacher, and a place where I have seen the most talented young men and women come through. I am happy and grateful that I have been a part of this incredible journey.”