By Ejaz Karim
History of the Aga Khan Higher secondary Schools is directly linked with Sir Sultan Mohammed Shah, Aga Khan lll, the visionary who established almost 200 schools in Madras and Dar Es Salam during the twentieth century. He always advocated equal access to quality education for the Muslims in the sub-continent, in his speech at the Muslim Educational conference in 1904 in Bombay he said:
“There are some dangers ahead and I venture to draw your attention to some of them which we can guard against. It would be the greatest of all our misfortune if we now mistook instruction for education and the mere power of passing examinations for learning. It is for this reason that the thoughtful welcome the reforms o f the universities, which the government of India now contemplates.
It is for this reason that the far-sighted among the Muslims of India desire a university where the stander of learning shall be the highest and where with scientific training there shall be that moral education-that indirect but constant reminder of the eternal difference between right and wrong which is the soul of education”, he once said.
When there was grave need of a well-equipped educational institution in Hunza Valley, the foundation of an excellent school was laid in karimabad by His Highness the Aga Khan lV, in 1986, to fulfill the needs of female education in Hunza and adjacent areas. Ashia Alam- alumni of AKHSS Hunza says, “AKHSS blessed me with knowledge, creativity, skills and gave me a meaning of education. I must say, it provided best platform to furnish my intellect and mentality.”
Zarina, another graduate says, “It was a wonderful experience at AKHSS, Hunza, it exquisitely provides quality education to females from different parts of Gilgit – Baltistan.”
During the school’s inauguration, His Highness Aga Khan had written in the visitor’s book:
“This has been a deeply important day to me. It has seen the beginning of what I hope will be a new version of life in the Northern Areas and the discovery of a direction hitherto not believed to be a realistic, that progress in all walk of life is genuinely achievable. I congratulate all those who have contributed to this achievement and express to them all my deepest gratitude. May the Academy fulfill everyone’s highest expectation, beginning with those of the students themselves.”
Later, Aga khan higher secondary Schools were established in Gilgit and Ghakuch established almost in the same decade, to turnaround the education system of the region to modern ways of teaching, where teachers became facilitators rather than instructors. Within couple of years the HSS have become a source of inspiration for teachers and students across the country.
Gul Rehan, a student of Mathematic at FC College Lahore says, “the emphasis on clarification of the conceptual knowledge, aided with the friendly teaching environment, has provided me hope and passion for the future”. Another student, Sami, describes each day spent at AKHSS “truly inspirational”.
AKHS Schools, located in Karachi, Gilgit, Gahkuch and Chitral, are considered to be among the premier higher secondary level institutions of Pakistan. The colleges have been facilitating hundreds of male and female students from diverse backgrounds; irrespective of color, religion, and race. Genuflect toward enlightened world is central purpose of the Colleges and prepare new generation to face the socio-economic challenges of the rapidly changing world and strive to nurture a harmonious balance between academic demands and extra-curriculum activities.
Asad Karim, a student of Biotech at FC College says, “AKHSS brought holistic change in my personality and gave me a vision of my life.”
“It played a pivotal role in my mental grooming and it has been exposing quality education and charming future to many students”, adds Shahbana, a student of Computer Science at FC College.
Today students of these prestigious institutions are studying at not only national universities of high repute, but also at international universities in different fields.
Shahid Qulli, alumnus of AKHSS Gilgit now student of Philosophy at the Punjab University says, “AKHSS is a teacher, an Inspirer, and a leader to shows your essence. It had been the life changing moment to study in this prestigious institution. It lives forever in me with same brightness as when I saw it for the first time. I hope it will continue to show the unseen path to millions more.”
As manifested by the reflections of these former students, the Aga Khan Higher Secondary Schools are playing an important role in development of Gilgit – Batlistan, by providing education and skills, but importantly, by building leadership potentials of the students.
There is a lot that needs to be done to turn these schools into international icons of knowledge and wisdom. Positive aptitude and developing multiple excellences, multi- discipline, and integrated skills will need to be developed even better. Introduction of teaching opportunities in the faculty of behavioral and social sciences will enable creation of leaders who will transform the society.
The contributor is student at Forman Christian College, Lahore. He has described this piece as a tribute to his former institution.