Salim Bhatia, welcome address at AKA Hyderabad & Mombasa graduation | Aga Khan Academies

Salim Bhatia, welcome address at AKA Hyderabad & Mombasa graduation

26 May 2015

General Mwathete, honourable guests, families, colleagues, members of the graduating class of 2015 at the Aga Khan Academy Mombasa and the Aga Khan Academy Hyderabad, ladies and gentelmen,

As the Director of Academies, it is my great privilege to welcome you to the 2015 graduation ceremonies for both Aga Khan Academies. It is a pleasure to be with you here in Mombasa this year and to simultaneously celebrate this joyous occasion with our Hyderabad graduates. I know that our Academy teachers and staff, parents, friends and other relatives here with us today join me in congratulating and commending our Academy graduates on your achievement. 

Today, as I look at the graduates before us here in Mombasa and as I think back, it was just last month when I was in Hyderabad and spent time with our graduates there, I feel pride. I feel real pride in each and every one of you. You are the proof that His Highness’s vision can and is becoming a reality. 

You may be wondering what I mean. That’s understandable; it is normal to be caught up in the emotion of this day. You may be excited, even anxious, as you think about what lies ahead. You may be a little sad to leave your family and friends. You may be a bit overwhelmed by the memories of your days spent at the Academy or you may just be relieved that your exams are finally over! 

So, if you’ll indulge me a little, I will explain what I mean and hope that this remains in your memories as you look back to this graduation day. I said that you – each and every one of you and the graduating class as a whole – are the proof that His Highness’s vision can and is becoming a reality. You are the pioneers of our Academies network, and no matter which Academy you call “home”, you have all gone through the unique educational programme envisioned by His Highness the Aga Khan. Of course, you have been educated based on the world-class International Baccalaureate programme, but your education at the Academy has gone far beyond inside and outside the classroom. 

While your peers in other schools have possibly never even heard of the word “pluralism” – or at best have studied it briefly – you have been living pluralism every single day. The Academy is a special place where your diversity is recognised and valued as an integral part of the educational and co-curricular programmes. You speak different languages, come from different countries and regions, have different economic circumstances, hold different opinions and practice different faiths. Yet, as Academy students, you have learned together. You have studied together. You have played on the sports fields together. You have volunteered together. You have travelled together. You have grown up together. 

But what does this mean for you now? As you leave the Academy today, you will officially join the growing group of Aga Khan Academies’ alumni around the world. Many more future graduates like you will enter this group in the years to come – graduates from Hyderabad and Mombasa, of course, but also graduates from the upcoming Academies in Dar-es-Salaam, Maputo, Dhaka and Bishkek. As Academy alumni, you will share experiences and values that will continue to bring you together. You will share roots in our Academies network: a network that has given you the highest international standard of education in a unique and pluralistic learning environment; a network for which ethical leadership is cornerstone; a network where merit, not means, determines your entrance; a network that has encouraged you to engage in service to your school, your community, the nation and our world. 

Speaking of our world, you are entering a world filled with new possibilities facilitated by ever-advancing technology. This world we live in is more connected in time and space than ever before. The tree that falls in the forest today may not be heard by nearby villagers and yet can be heard across land and sea by researchers studying our environment from a laboratory in another country and time zone. Skype, FaceTime and Instagram have made it simple for those of us on one side of the world to see and converse with friends, family and even strangers on the other side of the globe. 

It is an exciting world filled with opportunities. And yet, it is also a world filled with challenges – challenges that you will have to conquer and where you will be called to lead. As His Highness the Aga Khan stated at the inauguration of the Academy in Hyderabad, “The ongoing objective in all of this work is to provide an outstanding education for outstanding students – to prepare men and women of exceptional ability to meet extraordinary challenges.” Economic and social challenges in one part of the world now directly and often immediately affect people in another. And, unfortunately, diversity is still a source of fear for some. This fear of the Other – and of difference – has led to terror attacks last month on university students in Kenya, last week on a minority Muslim community in Pakistan and a few days ago on Justice Ministry employees in Afghanistan. As we know, these attacks are just some of the most recent ones in the global terrorism that has been going on for most of your young lives. In our interconnected world, the differences that you have embraced through your own experiences in pluralism are also reasons used by some to encourage fear and hate. The challenges before you, therefore, are difficult, but we believe that your unique Academy education and experiences have helped equip you to face those challenges and to conquer them in order to create a better world for us all. 

As you go out into the world to take advantage of these opportunities and to conquer these challenges, I encourage you to keep strong ties to the Academies network. We can learn from you and share your experiences with other Academy students. You can learn from us as the Academies network grows and expands to new places and cultures. You can learn from each other – from other students, teachers and alumni – who share your values and goals for humanity. You can use this network to make a difference, and you can be an example to future Academy students of what they can aspire to become and of excellence in action. 

Of course, I think that you will agree with me that you did not get this far without the help of some very important people. Graduates, I ask you to join me in taking a moment to recognise and thank the Academy faculty and staff as well as your parents, friends and other family members who have supported you and your education at the Academy.And there are some other important people, whose faces might not be as familiar to you, or may even be invisible to you, but whose contributions of time and support have helped enable your education. Please join me in thanking our volunteers and our donors for their dedication and assistance in realising the Aga Khan Academies vision. 

The American poet and physician Oliver Wendell Homes said, “Greatness is not in where we stand, but in what direction we are moving. We must sail sometimes, with the wind and sometimes against it - but sail we must, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.” 

Graduates, raise your anchor. Hoist your sails. Go forward with purpose and determination. You are full of potential. We believe in you and are counting on you to bring about positive change in our world, to help shape the future of education and humanity and to inspire future Academies students and fellow alumni to join you in creating a society where pluralism is valued and diversity is embraced. The responsibility before you is mighty and our aspirations for you are lofty. You are capable of achieving greatness. 

I congratulate you as graduates of the Class of 2015, and wish you continued success in your endeavours. Thank you.