Alqaim Lalani: Graduating from the Academy to write a new chapter | Aga Khan Academies

Alqaim Lalani: Graduating from the Academy to write a new chapter


For Alqaim Lalani, his recent graduation from the Aga Khan Academy in Mombasa brings him one step closer to furthering his dream of attaining a deeper understanding of how economics and politics affect a society and the daily life of its inhabitants. Alqaim will attend New York’s Columbia University in the Fall as a prestigious Kluge Scholar, where he plans to major in these subjects.

“I have much appreciation for the interdisciplinary study of economics and politics. These two areas of knowledge really dictate the decisions made by leaders, whether that be on the global stage or an institutional platform,” he states. 

Even at this young age, Alqaim has engaged in thoughtful and careful consideration of how economics can help leaders plan to avert an uncertain future in their countries.

“In the world we live in, where natural resources and commodities are increasingly scarce, coupled with a rising population growth, economics to me really seems like a subject that is instrumental in planning ahead for the turbulent times to come,” he states with confidence.

Alqaim says he was accepted in the Columbia Undergraduate Scholars Programme for “his intellectual pursuits, extracurricular achievements, and promise for future.”  He says being in a residential programme at the Academy helped him follow a routine and helped him navigate his rigorous workload more effectively.  He also relished being a “big brother” to the younger students in the dorm.

Extracurricular activities and public service undertakings are an integral part of the International Baccalaureate Programme (IB) curriculum at the Academies. As part of his public service requirement, Alqaim pioneered a cancer initiative called Tumaini La Maisha (Hope For Life). He started this in 2015 for children battling cancers at the Muhimbili National Hospital in Tanzania. Under this initiative, Alqaim engaged young cancer patients and their parents in arts and crafts activities as part of a healing process and also to raise money for their medical treatment. This initiative is ongoing and has expanded to Kenya and Uganda. The parents and patients make bags and other crafts which are sold to the public. 

“My personal involvement with the project is distributing the bags once they are made, marketing the products, making orders for the materials that are used in their production and raising awareness about the severity of pediatric cancer in East Africa.”

Another tenet that the Academy places immense importance on is pluralism.  What is Alqaim’s takeaway from this?

“In the first year of the diploma programme at the Academy, I travelled to Rwanda with other history students to learn about the Rwandan Genocide. This is perhaps one of the most memorable experiences I had. At the Academy, we are taught about the importance of pluralism and understanding. Yet, when I went to Rwanda and saw the atrocities of the genocide, it reminded me that everyone does not share these values. It also reminded me how significant my Academy education was in allowing me to become an individual that recognizes the wrongful nature of fear-mongering, propaganda and hate speech that are so pervasive today.”

Alqaim holds dear the many lessons learned at the school. He says they have opened his eyes and transformed his old way of thinking.

“Theory of Knowledge taught me to ask the deeper questions, share my opinion fervently while appreciating and respecting views that may be diametrically opposed from my own. Governance and Civil Society provided a nurturing environment for community service projects such as monetary and marketing support. 

Projecting an aura of congeniality, Alqaim says, “At the Academy, I have acquired a greater understanding on the importance of ethical leadership and an enduring commitment to whatever project I undertake.”

Related article: AKA Mombasa Student Builds Social Entrepreneurship Initiative