Cultural Diversity at the Academy | Aga Khan Academies

Cultural Diversity at the Academy

23 July 2020

“What is culture?”

Oftentimes people are asked this question, and the answer is almost always “A person’s ancestry, traditions, customs, and patriotic feelings”. In my opinion, it's more than that. Culture is something embedded in one’s personality; it is one’s experiences, knowledge, and belief system. It means treating others with respect and passion no matter what their beliefs are. Culture is how a person identifies and defines oneself, it is their personal values and ideologies. 

Culture is different for everyone from different corners of the world because everyone comes from different walks of life and the paths they choose are heavily varied. Every human being has the choice to adopt a culture of their choice, it is never restricted to their place of birth, it is simply a feeling of patriotism and oneness that urges one to adopt the culture of their own birthplace. At the Academy, we believe in diversity, we experience it and we thrive in it, not just because it is expected of us, but because once we begin to experience what diversity looks like, there’s no other culture we’d rather be part of. Our culture is our pride.

Mishca Dossani - DP2

My culture makes me who I am. It is where I come from and where I am today. I am an Indo African, born and brought up in Africa, and later moved to India. Being an African born Indian, makes it harder to explain when asked where I belong, but that does not hold me back, in fact, it is what has made me who I am. 

I come from an Indian ancestry as both my parents are born and brought up in India. My family has had the most significant impact on my culture and lifestyle. My passion for technology, for the religious arts, for swimming have all been a part of my culture. It is what defines me, makes me a person that celebrates life. My small world; my family and friends, my music, my sport, my religion, all of this is my culture, and when someone asks me, where I belong? my answer will always be my small world.

Safa Surani DP2


Culture, an umbrella term that encompasses the social behaviour, norms, laws, beliefs, customs, capabilities and habits of a human society or a community. The Aga Khan Academy is a community of over 650 students and over 100 staff members, a community that provides and accepts, a community that celebrates diversity in every way it can. The Aga Khan Academy promotes the idea of understanding that each individual at the academy, as well as outside the academy is unique and has differences, whether they are along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, status, political beliefs or other ideologies. I have been in the Academy for 3 years and if there is one thing that I believe my school stands out for, it is for building a sense of cultural awareness in its students and staff. Personally, living at the Academy with students from all around the world with different beliefs and different cultural backgrounds has really taught me to celebrate and appreciate different cultures and their history.

The Aga Khan Academy is home to students not just from one country but from countries all around the world. Students from India, Pakistan, USA, UAE, Bangladesh,various countries in Africa, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and the UK call the Academy their home. This school has been a platform where a student such as myself is exposed to so many different languages and cuisines. Often we find ourselves tasting delicacies from all over the world and also from different corners of India. Not only does the food have a blend of culture in it, but so does the music that we get to listen to in the Academy during performances and events. While our music teachers open up a melodious world of classical Indian music for the audience, our Jazz band allows us to look deeper into the African-American culture. Food, music, the arts and language, have all allowed me to understand the true meaning of culture.

Arzoo Vastani, DP 2.


As a 13-year old boy from Tajikistan visiting India for the first time, I knew nothing about the Indian culture. At that age, I didn’t give it enough importance simply because I didn’t understand why every culture is beautiful and rich in its very own way.

Colorful dresses, kurtas, sarees and the Indian clothing. Biryani, dosa and the Indian cuisine. Salman Khan, Shahrukh Khan and the Indian cinema. This list could go on forever, yet it wouldn’t be enough to accurately describe how much the Academy taught me. Here, we don’t simply learn what a culture is about, we teach each other to embrace it and treat it with respect. In my opinion, this holds an immense value and transforms the academy into such a comfortable and safe space to be in.

Initially, I had a fear that I may not be accepted in the community because I was different, but to my surprise, despite all the differences, my friends and teachers treat me just like they treat one another. I am proud  to say: “I am Tajik”, and I am honored to be given that opportunity. Academy taught me how to respect, accept and cherish all cultures, including my own and I will remain forever grateful for this priceless lesson.

Buzurgmehri Muzaffar, DP 2.


Cultural Fest at The Aga Khan Academy Hyderabad 


An extravagant evening with everything you could ask for! Food from all around the world, traditions from all around the world, clothing from all around the world, and even performances from all around the world. Flags of countries from India, Russia, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, South Africa appeared on the stage.


On this day, students from all around the world gathered together in our school amphitheatre and there were marvellous performances from cultural perspectives  from across the globe. There were Tajik songs, Garba, Bhangra, Afghan dances, African hip-hop, Contemporary dance, Odissi, Kuchipudi,  tabla recital, Indian classical music, Bengali music, Telugu songs  and so much more! Not just students, our staff members also took part in the show and represented their culture on this momentous occasion. It was truly an evening to remember.

Mishca and Arzoo DP2


An interview on the Annual Grand Cultural Festival with some of our students who are from different parts of the world and call the Academy their home. These students conceptualised the event and brought it to life! 

Interviewer: We have heard all about the Grand Cultural Festival, but can you tell us how such a wonderful idea popped up in your head?

Payrav: *Smiles*  It wasn’t just my head alone, it was all 5 of us. Nevertheless, as Mahatma Gandhi once said “A nation's culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.”

Interviewer: Truer words haven’t been spoken.

Payrav: I agree.It was the diversity and bouquet of cultures in our school that really inspired me and my fellow organizers to take that ownership to bring out the different cultures together. We felt and took it as our moral responsibility to let everyone get heard and self-express from dancing to traditional food, to represent the AKA family and its multiculturalism .

Interviewer: Wow, no wonder you seem so enthusiastic about it, even now!

Payrav: It was an unforgettable experience

Interviewer: Salim, now that the event has left its mark in people’s minds, they will obviously try to make something similar in the future, do you encourage them?

Salim: Why not? The spirit was raised with the Class of 2021,  it’s natural for us to pass on the torch for other students to take it up and raise the bar higher. If they need any advice, we will be glad to help out our juniors! 

Interviewer: Very generous and considerate of you.

 Salim: *smiles* But this does not mean we will do the job for them!

Interviewer: Of course, they must learn to be independent.

Salim: Yes, the job requires leadership, and strong leaders must step forward to achieve good results.  Here’s to raising the bar on top of the ones that have come before them!  I think it’s very poetic. With that in mind I think we have manifested a spirit within the Academy, one that will mould the upcoming leaders of the Academy.

Interviewer: Well said, the Academy is a place where future leaders are made!

Interviewer: Aftikhar, I’ve only heard positive feedback about the event. People say they loved the food, the music, the dance. At the same time, I couldn’t help but wonder, did the Academy benefit from the Grand Cultural Festival?

Aftikhar: Thank you for that. It was a new experience for the Academy and its inhabitants. So, the idea was welcomed and appreciated at various levels. Firstly, it proved to everyone that students are capable enough to undertake such tasks and mature enough to take the responsibility. As a result, a culture of trust was built between the school management team and senior students. On the other hand, it provided the campus with another event where teachers could cook their traditional food and share it with students.

Interviewer: Most certainly. This trust that you have built will surely allow our students to create similar events in the future. Truly beneficial, especially for the student body.

Interviewer: Salman, it has all been about positivity until now, but we know that every road has its bumps. bringing up such an enormous event wouldn’t go unchallenged. What were some of the challenges you faced?

Salman: You are right. The event was planned in two phases, cultural food fest, and performances. So, yes it was quite a herculean  task. One of the major challenges our team faced was managing time and a large number of logistics. The former was due to lack of time, as we had only one week to plan and strategize, it had become very stressful till we executed our plans. The latter was due to our inexperience in taking such a large task. Anyhow, organizing such events is supposed to be chaotic and demanding.

Interviewer: The end product speaks for itself. You’ve managed to do very well in spite of numerous challenges.

Salman: Giving up was never a part of the plan!

Interviewer: Last but not least, Buzurgmehr, are you proud of what you have put together?

Buzurgmehr: Words wouldn’t be enough to express my feelings of the day of the Grand Cultural Festival. Seeing teachers and students enjoying the  food together, smiling and ‘hanging out’  like one big family from across the world was nothing but pleasure to my eyes. Beautiful music and dancing after a delicious dinner, what else could I have wished for!

Interviewer: *laughs* That is indeed what we all wish for! 

Buzurgmehr: Yes, and I must say that I will remember that night forever. It was the first time I, along with my friends created something of such a large scale with such great success. I have no regrets in what we did, and I believe we placed the first brick into a long-lasting tradition. The tradition of appreciating all cultures and their harmonious existence. I am very proud of what we have done, and to this day it has been one of the best experiences in my life!

Buzurgmehr, Aftikhar, Salim, Salman and Payrav -  The Grand Cultural Festival organizing team, DP-2.