Kamila Janmohamed (Class of 2018): Reflecting on immense personal growth | Aga Khan Academies

Kamila Janmohamed (Class of 2018): Reflecting on immense personal growth

My four-year journey at the Aga Khan Academy Mombasa came to a close at a much faster pace than I am comfortable with. With graduation having recently taken place, I can’t help but look back at the immense growth I have undergone personally, socially and intellectually during my time here.

The prospect of joining the Academy had always sat passively on the horizon – I had cousins pass through the Diploma Programme here long before me, and a sister who soon planned to make the shift. So, at the age of 14, it didn’t come as much of a surprise when my parents suggested I move with her.

Leaving the comfort of my home and the company of friends with whom I had spent my entire academic career proved a lot harder than I anticipated. Coming from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, I faced less of a culture shock than many incoming students I would interact with over the years, but this didn’t soften the blow of finding myself in the middle of an entirely new education system. Here I was, an anxious teenager who had long since associated learning with the contents of a textbook, now being introduced to criteria, conceptual understanding and inquiry-based learning, all of which seemed like another language to me. Like most who have been in my position, I felt alarmingly overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of responsibility I had to take, both for my learning as an MYP (Middle Years Programme) student, and my well-being as a residential student.

I was lucky enough to have a dorm parent that year who was very perceptive to these challenges, and through her support, and that of several of my class teachers, I was able to integrate relatively seamlessly into life at the Academy. I was particularly struck by the attitude towards learning harboured by my peers, many of whom viewed it as a communal effort and helped me adjust to the new system. This culture of intellectual humility is something that I am honoured to have been able to contribute to over the last 18 months, by tutoring MYP students in subjects I found particularly challenging in the programme.

True to the school’s mandate to develop holistic individuals, I was encouraged to join several extracurricular activities, which empowered me to pursue my passion for learning and service. One of these was a community and service group called Learn and Earn, which operated under the residential programme’s weekend activities. As the coordinator for logistics and communication, I helped organise weekly sessions with students from a nearby school where we carried out activities to promote life skills, as well as sell food items that we had cooked together to raise funds for the renovation of their school’s kitchen. This was my first experience with planning and executing a project of such a scale, and it increased my interactions with members of both the school and the surrounding communities. That same year, I was encouraged by my biology teacher to participate in the 2015 Golden Climate Olympiad where my project on cost-effective biogas digesters earned a silver award.

Two years later, I drew on my experiences as a younger, and newer, student at the Academy to fulfil my role as a Dorm Captain. I have viewed this opportunity as one of my greatest ways of giving back to the community I have grown so much in. In addition to organising orientation activities and events for the residential community, my role has required me to serve as a bridge between the students and the teachers. In considering the perspectives of both parties when discussing administrative issues, I have developed a deeper understanding of the importance of good communication and empathy. By playing a coordinative role, I have been able to engage directly with the sheer diversity of the school community. Interacting with individuals of various backgrounds and opinions has taught me the importance of engaging in open-minded and meaningful dialogue, which has enabled me to broaden my horizons. As a student leader, I have come to appreciate the importance of respect for individuals not because of the authority they hold, but simply because of the fact that they are people, a value that resonates strongly with the Academy’s vision.

Learning to balance these responsibilities and my commitments to other extracurricular programs with the demands of the rigorous International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme has stretched my abilities to manage and organise my time. Most of my courses have involved an extensive amount of critical thinking and have taught me not to look at academic subjects as separate entities. This has in part been catalysed by my Extended Essay on the economic implications of stroke, which focused on biology and economics. As a result, I have been able to make more meaningful conclusions from my learning, and to question things better. I am particularly grateful to my English teacher, whose classes stimulated thoughtful discussions about our world and why things are the way they are. Such platforms have been abundant in my time at the Academy, giving me the opportunity to voice my opinions, take on issues that I am passionate about and to develop a strong social conscience that has helped shape my identity.

As I consider what life will be like after graduation, I find myself saddened by the fact that I will soon be in a new environment without the strong network of support from teachers and students I have built here at the Academy. To these people, and my family of course, I owe not only my intellectual growth but also the strong sense of self I have developed. These are things that I hope to carry with me as I move on to pursue a degree in Global Affairs at Yale University, now with a larger family, concentrated in a region of the world I look very forward to coming back to work in.

By Kamila Janmohamed