FOUNDATION STONE LAYING CEREMONY OF THE AGA KHAN ACADEMY
Karimabad, (Hunza) Pakistan
May 13, 1983
Your Excellencies, Mr. Ahmedali Merchant, Members of the Education Board, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am delighted to be here today at last, after the disappointment of having to cancel My visit in March because of the weather, and to be joined on this important Silver Jubilee occasion both by distinguished guests and by so many members of the Jamat. It is heart-warming for Me to see you all here.
My Silver Jubilee is a celebration of years which have passed, but it is fitting that it should be commemorated by laying foundations for the future. As Ahmedali Merchant has reminded us, it was here that My Grandfather, Sir Sultan Mohammed Shah Aga Khan, initiated our education network for the Northern Areas. He did this with faith in the future. It therefore gives Me great pleasure that today we are inaugurating a completely new development in the system he originated.
The Aga Khan Academy here at Karimabad will be our first High School and Hostel for girls in the Northern Areas and a landmark in our progress in Pakistan.
I am very happy to learn that the site on which this foundation stone is being laid was donated by members of the Jamat and that others have already volunteered materials and labour for the building. No praise can be too high for such generous contributions. Volunteers have always been the life-blood of the Aga Khan social welfare institutions. Without their support none of our institutions could function as they do. Today, when resources are so limited in relation to the demands for improvement in education and in health, self-help effort is more important than ever before.
Never have so many girls been keen to become educated. Since 1976 the overall enrollment of the Diamond Jubilee Schools has increased by 49% but the figure for girls is even higher - 56%. Under the Central Education Board's first 5 year plan, a variety of measures have been taken to match this demand and to improve both the facilities and the teaching staff, numbers have been doubled, with many more female teachers recruited. Refresher courses for teachers have been introduced; 21 schools have been upgraded to provide middle level education.
The aim everywhere has been for our community institutions to supplement and complement the effort of the Government and at the Foundation Ceremony, I think it is appropriate to say a few words about the philosophy underlying our development programmes.
These programmes are the outcome of surveys which we have been carrying out since the late 1960s. They have been done among - and with generous assistance of - our own communities and they have given the Imamat grassroots comprehension of the Northern Area problems. They have given us the ability to respond with plans for programmes and institutions whose aims can be defined in terms both of the dimensions and the longevity of the problems concerned. For example, how many teachers are we going to need and over what period?
The surveys have also demonstrated that the information we get from our community is substantially compatible with the profile of the whole population in a given region. If we found that educational or living standards among the community were low compared to national average in a certain area, then they were also low among people in general in that area. Logically therefore, it is appropriate for the solutions we provide to be made available to all people no matter what their background.
Thus our efforts here are being directed to helping the Northern Areas as a whole, improve their standard of living and their quality of life. It is My sincere hope that all communities will contribute to achieving this; that instead of arguing about what makes them different, even about what sets one village or community against another, they will collaborate. Only by constructive collaboration can the very real and urgent problems of the Northern Areas be solved. We have tried to prove that this can be done - and we intend, Inshallah, to continue demonstrating that it can be done through, for example, the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme and through our Teacher Training Programme. I am extremely happy that both Governmental and international aid organisations are appreciative of the carefully researched philosophy which lies behind such Aga Khan programmes.
Necessarily, education at higher levels is a key element in any development planning for the North.
If the schools and Health Centre in the Northern Areas are to continue their progress, we must educate local people well enough to enter such professions as nursing and teaching. I hope this Academy will send its matriculates on to obtain even higher qualifications, for example, at the Teacher Training College at Gilgit or at the School of Nursing at the Aga Khan University in Karachi. To do this means maintaining the highest standards.
This will mean that the Academy will have to be selective and accept only those girls with the best academic potential. Obviously the girls with the best potential will not only come from this district. They may come from anywhere in the Northern Areas and I hope that the Academy will be open to any girl with sufficient promise. As I said a moment ago, it is our policy for our institutions to render service to all the people of the Northern Areas.
I have also spoken of the role of the new Academy and the targets which it will seek to achieve. It will of course do this in close collaboration with the local authorities and within the framework of the Government's educational policies. Our Aga Khan organisations, especially the Aga Khan Foundation and the Central Education Board, are deeply committed to improving all aspects of education in the Northern Areas. This is why we are currently instituting a programme of refresher and training courses for teachers, to help develop their abilities and their qualifications. We hope that students from this Academy will choose to enter the profession and so help reduce the Northern Area's dependence on the South in finding qualified teachers.
It is hardly possible to over-emphasise the importance of developing the intellectual capacity available to the Northern Areas. No one community or country has a monopoly of intelligence, wisdom or creativity and it seems extremely important to Me that in the years ahead every individual in the North who is creative or capable and has had access to education - whether academic or practical - should make that knowledge available for the good of his or her homeland. It does not matter which area or community that individual comes from. He or she can contribute to developing an intelligentsia which will be a permanent asset to the region and provide a genuine foundation for self-generating progress in the future.
Your Excellency, Mr. Ahmedali Merchant, distinguished guests, it now give Me the greatest pleasure to lay the foundation stone of the Aga Khan Academy, Karimabad.
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