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The EastAfrican

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OUTLOOK
FEBRUARY 28 - MARCH 6, 2015

EXPANSION OF HIGHER EDUCATION

Civil society key to improving quality of life


The Aga Khan
aves that a
healthy civil
society is a
meitocatic one,
whee ethics ae
honoued, and
excellence is
valued
By CHURCHILL OTIENO
The EastAfrican

he Aga Khan believes that


the quality of life in East
Africa would improve if civil society embraced quality and was
more ethical, and this is driving
the Aga Khan Universitys bold
expansion in the region.
More and more, I am convinced that the key to improving
the quality of human life both
in places that are gifted with
good governments and in places
that are not so fortunate is the
quality of what I describe as civil
society, said the Aga Khan.
He denes civil society as an
array of institutions that are
neither public nor prot driven,
but which are motivated by voluntary commitments and dedicated to the public good: They
include institutions dedicated to
culture, to public information, to
the environment and to religious
faith. And they include, very importantly, the elds of health
and education.
The hereditary spiritual leader of the Shia Ismaili Muslims
holds that quality civil society
organisations are critical if human life across the world, especially in the developed world, is
to be improved.
He avers that a healthy civil
society is a meritocratic one,
where ethics are honoured, and
excellence is valued. And the
great question confronting us
here in Africa is how rapidly the
institutions of a healthy civil society can be established and reinforced.
Key question
This is a question he, as the
chancellor of the university, has
assigned AKU to help solve as it
advances and shares new knowledge. It is also a question the
university that will distinguish
the university from a sea of institutions currently jostling for
space in the market of East Africa higher education.
On February 23, the university became the rst foreign
one to be given a charter by the
Tanzanian government. Following 15 years of existence in East
Africa, it has announced a $1
billion expansion plan, the largest private investment in higher
education in the regions history,

His Highness The Aga Khan at the


launch of the Aga Khan University in Tanzania. Left, the university sta. Picture: Courtesy

that will see the establishment


of eight graduate schools in the
ve countries.
The Aga Khan University, has
a crucial role in helping realise
the quality of civil society organisations that both the developed

and the developing worlds need


to confront the future.
East Africa is witnessing a
boom in university education.
This manifests in the multitudes
of energetic youth who pour onto the streets of its cities every

evening trekking from evening


classes, and the millions of dollars coming from entrepreneurs
pockets to set up private colleges. But where there is a rush,
quality suers, and this may just
be the dierentiating niche for

AKU.
The Aga Khan said Tanzania was a special place for AKU
since his grandfather, while
serving as Imam of the Ismaili
Muslim community, made education a top priority and started
the rst Aga Khan School in Africa over 110 years ago in Bagamoyo.
Like each of you personally,
the university also remembers
its heritage on a day like this.
That heritage is rooted in the
rich history of Islamic intellectual accomplishment including the work of my own ancestors in ancient Cairo 1,000 years
ago, when they founded the
Azhar University and the Dar-ulilm the House of Knowledge.
This story continued over several centuries, as Muslim centres of scholarship and culture
involved and inspired people of
many traditions and faith communities.
And that same legacy was in
our minds when we began planning for this new Aga Khan University, he said.