Sitting in a luxurious common room facing the sea and chatting with his friends belonging to various nationalities and ethnic backgrounds is a hard-earned privilege for Salim, a poor boy who earlier worked in a cycle shop in a small Kenyan village to support his education.
Life has changed ever since the Aga Khan Academy spotted his yearning for education and innate leadership skills, and brought him to the Academy in Mombasa, which has committed itself to creating leaders who will build and lead institutions of civil society. Salim is among the several such poor students who get world-class residential comforts coupled with a rigorous international standard education free of cost at the AKA, Mombasa. A confident Salim declares he will bring about a change not only to his life but his country as well.
The Academy in Mombasa that will soon complete ten years in its journey to develop home-grown intellectual talent of exceptional calibre has indeed seen the difference. A few students who have got into college in the western universities have left an indelible mark on Kenyan soil. One of them started a library in his village, a revolution of its kind, while he was in school and his juniors now carefully nurture that dream. “The Academies believe that a school must prepare a graduate not only for his job but for a life of inquiry, learning and service,” says Salim Bhatia, Director, Aga Khan Academies.
Despite their diverse socio-economic backgrounds, students are at ease with each other as they explore academics and life on the sprawling 18-acre campus.
“With pluralism an integral part of the curriculum, the Academy offers multi-disciplinary education with an emphasis on humanities. Students study a range of subjects including foreign cultures, comparative religion, theory and criticism of arts and global economics,” says Rob Burrough, Head of the Academy. Five additional strands to the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum have been added, including Islamic cultural studies in a non-doctrinal and historical context and global economics from a moral point of view. In addition, students enjoy a vibrant programme of athletic and extra-curricular activities, which contributes to their personal growth.
They are encouraged to discuss and debate and understand theories from their experiences. The AKA, Mombasa, is the first of the 18 academies planned across the world. The AKA in Hyderabad is the second one that has started its operations this year. Located on a 100-acre campus near the Hyderabad airport, it is the only school in Andhra Pradesh to offer IB curriculum from junior school to senior school.