From rocky bus rides to righteous leadership: a metamorphosis | Aga Khan Academies

From rocky bus rides to righteous leadership: a metamorphosis

15 May 2023

From her first day of school in August 2011 to the last few days before graduating, Shifa Panjwani has seen the Academy transform from a one-building school to a well-equipped campus spread over a lush green 100-acre land amidst the very bosom of nature. But it’s not just the school that has evolved over the years, Shifa too has evolved from being a young and curious kid to a resilient woman, brimming with qualities of ethical leadership.

Shifa shares that the memories of her first day at the Academy – the rocky bus ride, the curiosity in the eyes of her classmates, the butterflies in her stomach that fluttered with excitement, and the first encounter with the teachers – are still fresh in her mind. She holds dear fond memories of the interactive and exciting learning environment that her teacher, Ms Alison Zinsli, carefully carved out for the grade 1 students. For Shifa, it’s the people of the Academy who breathe life into it and give it its colour and vibrance.

His Highness the Aga Khan’s vision and mission for the Academy had a significant influence on the decision of Shifa’s parents to enrol their daughters at the Academy. The vision for students to be globally competitive yet culturally rooted to become future leaders is reflected in the education system of AKA Hyderabad. She believes that the Aga Khan Curricular Strands (AK Strands), especially Ethics and Pluralism, have influenced her ideologies and perspectives that will help her contribute towards a more socio-economically and environmentally aware society. She asserts that the values and beliefs that His Highness envisions in future leaders cannot be gained otherwise.

Shifa shares how being in the Academy has been enriching both cognitively and emotionally. The pragmatic approach to teaching has always intrigued Shifa’s curious mind. She is interested in pursuing bioinformatics and the coalescence of technology and biology to improve healthcare. Shifa said, “I feel I can use my knowledge in both subjects to improve the quality of healthcare.” Alongside her academic pursuits, Shifa has also dabbled in extracurricular activities at the Academy, such as learning to play the guitar and joining the football team.

For Shifa, graduating after having spent so long on the campus is an emotion that is difficult to overcome and the mere thought of not waking up at 6 am to prep for school is foreign to her. While it is bittersweet to leave behind a place so familiar, she is all set to embark on the new journey with doubled eagerness. She hopes to use her learnings at the Academy in becoming a future leader. As she prepares to graduate, Shifa reflects on the past 12 years with a deep sense of honour.

Interviewed by Sarah Nathani, Diploma Programme One