Ganjina Vanjova (Class of 2017): Living and learning with balance | Aga Khan Academies

Ganjina Vanjova (Class of 2017): Living and learning with balance

When asked about my educational background, I always find it hard to give a short answer. This is because, in describing the Aga Khan Academy Mombasa, it does not suffice to say that it is simply an International Baccalaureate (IB) boarding school. Describing the Academy to someone requires an explanation of how it does more than provide an education: it aims to build character, with leadership, ethics and pluralism at its core.

At the Academy, academic success is priority – however, great value is equally placed on maintaining a balanced life. From my early years at AKA Mombasa, I recall playing for the netball and basketball team, taking piano lessons, singing with Voices for Change or getting involved in house and dorm events. I am grateful to have grown in an environment that encouraged me to explore myself and develop personal skills in various fields.

Working with the Student Representative Council significantly enhanced my collaboration skills, since it required me to work with students from all year groups, my team members and teachers. More importantly, it taught me to work independently.  It was most exciting that the work entirely depended on my own commitment and I could take it as far as I want. To date, this attitude still drives me in anything I do.

Community and Service activities were a part of our residential weekend schedules. A group of my peers and I started our own group, which raised funds for the Little Angels orphanage. This was a very rewarding experience, because not only did we get to fund their short and long-term costs, but we spent time with the children over several years.

I was also able to develop special bonds with my peers. Being a part of a small Tajik group in the school, it became our responsibility to be more informed about our roots in order to share it with the diverse community. Since we all lived in a boarding school and experienced the stress of studies together with our peers, it was only natural to make strong, long-lasting friendships. Interactions with my peers was always very enriching and insightful, since I was surrounded by other determined students who have at the same time similar priorities and diverse backgrounds.

The educational experience at the Academy was equally enriching. The Middle Years Programme was filled with projects to apply what we learnt in class. I remember building a house in Math and Art; I recall making a fundraising website, a game and a mobile app in CT. My education instilled in me work ethic and passionate learning with every project, as I struggled to implement my over-ambitious ideas. The Diploma Programme taught me the kind of work ethic that meant squeezing time anywhere possible to practice extra Physics or Math questions.

The teachers certainly play a crucial role alongside the thoroughly thought-out curriculum. Teachers present their fields with so much passion that it passes on to their students. For as long as I remember, Math has been my favourite subject. But as a result of the great work of the teachers, I was drawn to almost everything offered at the Academy, which made it harder to choose a profession. I was lucky to be taught by teachers who had faith in me and saw my strengths better than I could myself.

Such an extraordinary experience deprives you of the comfort of being average and the comfort of living just for yourself. Every summer, the goal was to in one way or another give back to the community, whether it was through an internship at the University of Central Asia camp, running academic camps for youth in Khorog, or fundraising for humanitarian causes.

I am currently pursuing a dual degree program in Mechanical Engineering and International Development Studies at York University. I hope to use my engineering skills to solve real world problems, with an end goal of using my educational experiences and the values from the Academy to serve my home country of Tajikistan.

By Ganjina Vanjova