Exchange programme students thrive in and out of the classroom | Aga Khan Academies

Exchange programme students thrive in and out of the classroom

22 November 2018

Midway through the Academies’ first student exchange programme, the 15 students from Mombasa, as well as their grade 9 hosts in Hyderabad, are having a rich, immersive educational and cultural experience.

Over the last few weeks, the Mombasa students have had multiple social opportunities outside the classroom to interface with their classmates, peers from other grades in the residential programme, and host faculty at AKA Hyderabad. Their schedule has been peppered with events such as Cultural Night, the Academy’s annual celebration of diversity on campus; Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights celebrating victory over darkness; and Halloween.

“Cultural Night was a fantastic time, as I got to learn and experience the diverse cultures we have here in Hyderabad through music, dancing, acting and poetry,” Sophia Talerico shared. “I was able to interact with a variety of people and express my own culture as well through a form of dance. I have so many memorable memories to now share with my colleagues at AKA Mombasa!”

In addition to these events, the students have also been on sightseeing and pedagogical field trips to the city. As part of their drama class and in exploration of the World Theatre History unit, a few of them joined a group of grade 9s and 10s on a visit to the University of Hyderabad to watch Medea, a Greek tragedy performed by a university theatre troupe. On one Saturday School, they also visited the Birla Planetorium for real world application of the things they learn in their science classes. Last weekend, accompanied by four faculty members, the students went on a day-long excursion to see the Qut’b Shahi tombs, currently undergoing reconstruction led by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, and the Golconda Fort, one of Hyderabad’s most renowned monuments.

“I enjoyed learning different historical facts about Hyderabad, the architecture and the empires that had ruled over this area in the past,” Afra Ndassiwa tells us. “Being here has shown me different aspects of this beautifully diverse country, including being exposed to the food, language, music and dance. I have also learnt that you shouldn’t go to a place judging them based on what you heard because that just holds you back from fully enjoying your experience.”

Chances to learn and grow have not just been limited to outside the classroom. “The Mombasa students have been really active participants in our class discussions,” says Himani Sood, their chaperone and I&S teacher. “They truly display qualities of life-long learning. For example, many are very invested in the current I&S unit we are studying, that explores systemic inequality within the Indian context. It's fascinating to see how their sharp intellect goes hand-in-hand with their ability to empathise with others.” The students meet Himani, as well the Academy counsellor, Isabelle, on a weekly basis to deconstruct and reflect on their experiences, as well as seek support as required.

Armaan Manji, a grade 9 Hyderabad student who is Kenyan by citizenship, has played the part of gracious host. “The reason I feel like this exchange is valuable, especially for the students here, is that being a Kenyan student I would often talk about Africa and the dances and the culture but no one really understood what I meant until now. Once the exchange students arrived and they showed the students here our dances and talked about the different cultures found in Kenya and compared the Kenyan government to India, I feel as though the students not only have knowledge about outside of their continent but appreciation for all that they have not yet explored, specifically the African continent.”

The coming few weeks will prove to be no less packed with adventure, with an upcoming overnight science field trip to Nagarjuna Sagar, preparations for the pre-Christmas ball, and a visit to a local craft market. Stay tuned for more updates!

Written by Kamini Menon
Photographs contributed by Nasir Hajiyani, grade 9