The 26th convocation of the Aga Khan University (AKU) on Thursday was a special one, as students and faculty celebrated several milestones, including the 30th anniversary of the foundation of the university as well as the silver jubilee of the first graduating batch of its medical college.
The ceremony began with the procession, led by Dr Rafat Jan, director of the midwifery programme at the AKU’s School of Nursing and Midwifery, carrying the university blazon. The graduating students, chief guest Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad Khan, AKU President Firoz Rasul and the faculty followed as the university’s age-old processional music, composed by Kabir Roy, blared from the speakers.
The university’s chancellor, His Excellency Prince Karim Aga Khan officially opened the celebrations. In his inaugural speech, His Excellency announced plans to establish seven new professional graduate schools pertaining to liberal arts to add to the university’s existing setup.
A total of 367 degrees were conferred on students, who were dressed in the traditional green and white convocation robes, commonly referred to as Jamiapoashs. They were graduating from the School of Nursing and Midwifery, the Medical College, the Institute for Educational Development and the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisation. Seven of the students walked away with doctorates - five in the health sciences and two in education.
Maryam Baqir, who graduated from the AKU’s medical college, summed up the graduates’ feelings in her valedictorian speech. “Let us thank our parents, partners, family members and teachers who enabled us to join the league of individuals who hold the highest principles of medical profession today,” she remarked.
The valedictorian, nevertheless, gave voice to her concerns about living in a society that justified unequal distribution of rights and privileges based on one’s material wealth. “Unfortunately, we, too, are beneficiaries of this skewed system,” said Baqir. “With a sense of humility and guilt, as well as a desire for redemption, we vow to give back to those from whom we took in the first place.”
Tooba Ali, the recipient of the best graduate award in Bachelors of Medicine, was of the opinion that the public sector should come forward with a parallel commitment towards healthcare. “The AKU sets the bar high with emphasis on its world-class curriculum and technique, which should be followed by the others,” Ali told The Express Tribune.
AKU president Rasul said the university that had started from a single campus in Pakistan had now grown to include five campuses and three teaching sites in three different continents — Asia, Europe and Africa. The university boasts over 10,000 alumni in various fields of medicine, nursing, education and liberal arts. “We are proud of the role our graduates play in improving the quality of life of societies in the developing world,” said Rasul.
The graduating students
From the AKU’s medical college, a total of 98 doctors graduated this year. Meanwhile, 14 students received their MSc degrees, including eight in the field of epidemiology and biostatistics, four in health policy and management and one each in clinical research and health professions education. The college also awarded advanced diplomas to 20 students, including 13 in human development and seven in health professions education.
Around 205 students successfully became certified nurses from the AKU’s School of Nursing. Meanwhile, the AKU’s Institute for Educational Development awarded 23 post-graduate degrees in education. Another nine post-graduate degrees were conferred on the students at its Institute for the Study of Muslim Culture.
For being a pioneer in bringing new perspectives to the delivery of university education, the university awarded an ‘honoris causa’ to Shamsh Kassim-Lakha, AKU founding president.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 20th, 2013.