Item(s) for March, 2011

Sunday
Mar 20,2011

When one talks about philanthropy, our minds might run straight to Hollywood celebrities, but the spiritual leader of the world’s Ismaili Muslims has a special niche in that category, writes Edwin Nuwagaba.

Aga Khan Leadership

The Aga Khan was born Prince Karim in 1936 in Geneva and declared healthy despite being premature. He is the son of Prince Aly Khan and his wife Princess Tajudaulah (Joan Yarde-Buller), daughter of Lord Churston. After spending his early childhood in Nairobi Kenya, where his early education was done by private tutoring, he attended Le Rosey School in Switzerland and graduated from Harvard University with an honours degree in Islamic history in 1959. Aga Khan IV succeeded his grandfather, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah, to the Imamat on July 11, 1957 at the age of 20.

He is the 49th Imam of the Shia Imami Nizari Ismailis, the largest branch of the Ismaili followers of the Shia faith and is the alleged direct descendant of the Islamic prophet Mohammad through his cousin and son-in-law, Ali, the first Imam, and his wife Fatimah, Mohammad’s daughter.

The Aga Khan, (third right) has not only shown clear headed and focused leadership to his followers, but has stretched out a generous hand to people outside his religion. As soon as he was crowned imam, he founded the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), whose work is mostly in Asia and Africa. The network is a group of development agencies whose interest lies in the environment, health, education, architecture, culture, microfinance, rural development and disaster reduction.

AKDN conducts its programmes without regard to faith, origin or gender and is said to be one of the world’s largest private development agencies. But the Aga Khan has expressed concern about the work of the AKDN being described as philanthropy.

“Reflecting a certain historical tendency of the West to separate the secular from the religious, they often describe the work of the AKDN either as philanthropy or entrepreneurship. What is not understood is that this work is for us part of our institutional responsibility it flows from the mandate of the office of Imam to improve the quality of worldly life for the concerned communities.”

However, this has not stopped him from giving and reaching out to the poorest of communities. But to be able to sustain abilities to give, he conducts his philanthropic work with a business mind.

The Aga Khan married his first wife, the famous model Sarah “Sally” Frances Croker-Poole, who assumed the name HH Begum Salima Aga Khan, on October 22, 1969 (civil) and October 28, 1969 (religious) at his home in Paris. The couple were married for 25 years and have three children: Princess Zahra, born September 18, 1970, Prince Rahim Aga Khan, born October 12, 1971 and Prince Hussain Aga Khan, born April 10, 1974. They divorced in 1995.

The Aga Khan married his second wife, Gabriele Thyssen, (fourth right)who assumed the name Begum Inaara Aga Khan. “Inaara” is derived from Arabic nur, meaning light. They have a son, Prince Aly Muhammad Aga Khan, born 7 March 2000 and a stepdaughter, Princess Theresa of Leiningen.

While he is a Muslim leader, this suave man passes for a moderate one and for that he has been criticised by extreme Muslims. Instead of traditional robes, he often wears suits, a trait that was influenced by his long stay and studying in the western world. But that, in the first place, is the reason his grandfather chose him as leader. In his own words, the old man said that having seen the changes that were taking place in the world and the numerous discoveries most notably of atomic science, it was in the interest of the Ismaili community for him to be succeeded by a man who had grown up and developed in the new age. In fact, his grandfather skipped the Aga Khan’s father, who was in direct line of succession. It is because of this that the Aga Khan has sometimes been referred to as Imam of the Atomic Age by Ismailis.

He has individually contributed donations to human causes more than any individual and most countries. And he is known by economists to take big risks. While other venture capitalists tend to shy away from third world countries, he has invested largely in countries like Uganda, recently investing in hydro electric production at Bujagali Falls.

His other investments in Uganda include Industrial Promotion Services, Kampala Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd, Leather Industries of Uganda Ltd, Uganda Fishnet Manufacturers Ltd, West Nile rural Electrification Co., Diamond Jubilee Investment Trust, Diamond Trust Bank, The Jubilee Insurance Company, The Monitor Publications Ltd, Aga Han Hospital Kampala, Aga Khan schools, and Tourism Promotion Services (Uganda) Ltd (Serena hotels and resorts) among others. Yes, all this may sound like straight business, but the Aga Khan does it differently from popular tycoons. He makes money, but it is not his topmost priority.

What motivates him is embedded in his famous 1983 quote in India: There are those who enter the world in such poverty that they are deprived of both means and the motivation to improve their circumstances. Unless they can be touched with the spark which ignites the spirit of individual enterprise and determination, they will only sink into apathy, degradation and despair. It is for us, who are more fortunate, to provide that spark.” Spoken like a true leader.

Source: Daily Monitor

Thursday
Mar 10,2011

Sajeed, a student of class IV of The Aga Khan School, has just arrived home from school. On his way home, he animatedly kept telling his mother how surprised he was to know that his class friend Maha had not heard about Machu Picchu, Pratik borrowed three books from the library on the topic of medieval age and Ridwan had already memorised the birthdates of 2010 Academy Award Winners.

Even before having his lunch, Sajeed turned on his elder sister Simin’s computer, but not to browse on Facebook or play games. Instead he logged on to champs21.com, his new obsession to participate in ‘Brain Brats’, the first ever online knowledge combat in Bangladesh.

His last ranking among his peer-group was third. He was trying hard to beat Pratik from his own school and Barnali from Sunbeams School to make it to the top.

“I’ve been playing Brain Brats every day ever since it started on February 7 to improve my scores,” said Sajeed. “I have played it at least three hundred times, and have beaten my own highest score almost every time! I think answering the science and math related questions is a breeze for me, but the real tricky ones are the questions on the topic of general knowledge and IQ. I have picked up the habit of reading the “Brain Brats Knowledge Corner” in The Daily Star, and that helps a lot!”

Brain Brats is an inter-school competition conducted online, where students from Dhaka, Chittagong, Sylhet and Rajshahi log on for free, and compete with each other to win a study tour to Kuala Lumpur with their mothers.

Jointly organised by The Daily Star and Champs21, this is the first Bangladeshi e-assessment service. A total of forty-five English medium schools are participating in the competition nationwide. Brain Brats 2011 consists of three rounds: online round, school grooming round, and the grand finale where students are tested on three different subjects: math, science and general knowledge. The first round lasted for almost a month, while the grooming round by the schools ends today. One or two top performers per class from each school will have the opportunity to take the final test tomorrow at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre, and win the title for themselves and their schools.

During the first round the students from 45 schools took more than 150,000 test attempts to prove their wits among the peers.

“I have been selected for the grand finale and I am practicing in champs21.com everyday to be the champion under the supervision of our teacher,” said Nafeez, a student of HURDCO International School. “I want to be one of the Champs to win the study trip to Kuala Lumpur. I don’t mind being the 1st runner up though! An ASUS laptop sounds equally cool!” said Nafeez with a huge grin. “But seriously! The best part of the contest is challenging myself and my friends based on how much we know about the world. Nothing makes me happier than to see my top score beating my previous top score!” he added.

“Due to the huge response from students and active participation of the schools we decided to extend the duration of the first round,” said Russell T Ahmed, CEO, Champs21. He also added “Every student proved to be a champion, and it has been very difficult to choose the top students among them. “We also thank the schools for encouraging their students to break the walls of conventional education system.”

The schools that participated in the contest were highly involved in the selection and grooming process. “It is very prestigious for our school, and that is why we are allocating resources such as computer lab, school library, special teaching sessions and enthusiastic teachers to groom up our kids. On behalf of Bangladesh International Tutorial, I would congratulate my students for their active participation in Brain Brats and also thank The Daily Star and Champs21 team for such a great initiative,” said Lubna Chowdhury, principal of Bangladesh International Tutorial (BIT).

She also mentioned that the real champions are not the ones who win the flashy awards, but the ones who tried to learn more outside the textbook, and will keep the appetite for knowledge undying.

During the online round, The Daily Star and Champs21 team went to the participating schools to answer all the queries of the participants and give them a live demo of the contest. These visits were named “School Activation Session”. According to Tasmina, a student of South Breeze International School, the session had been very helpful to her, as her parents are not internet-savvy enough to help her with the needed guidance.

Since its launch in October 2010 champs21.com has been working towards popularising e-learning and self-assessment through internet. It primarily offers an online assessment service for the students from class 3 to class 10 of both Bangla and English medium schools, where students can assess their own strengths and weaknesses in Mathematics and Science towards stronger academic foundation.

This also allows students to know their position among all peers countrywide, and opens up opportunities to share lessons, tips, and solutions with students from the same class. Self-learning and peer-learning are thus encouraged through the web portal. The interactive portal is a great tool for academic preparation allowing students to take test anytime, anywhere, at their own pace.

An instant result with performance feedback and answer analysis is provided with a graphical presentation to both the students and their parents. Students can also brush up their co-curricular learning through free Bangla and English literature, art/craft lessons, General Knowledge, IQ, and e-entertainment. Champs21 aims to help the students of Bangladesh be at par with global education delivery, and prepare them for the future world with complete awareness of the ‘self’ and unique cultural identity.

The grand finale of the “Brain Brats” Knowledge Combat will be held on March 12. Students and schools are all warming up for the gala event with great enthusiasm.

“It is a great initiative and Brain Brats is just the beginning. There is a lot more to come with Champs21,” said Mahfuz Anam, Editor and Publisher of The Daily Star adding, “The Daily Star will always spearhead any initiative that has to do with true learning. Champs21.com and events such as Brain Brats have just opened the door for that. It is indeed a great feeling to be pioneering something so great! With a two-pronged vision of bridging the digital divide and preparing the future generation for an increasingly global battle of minds, Champs21 will hopefully be an example for many such local initiatives in the near future.”

S o u r c e :  h t t p : / / w w w . t h e d a i l y s t a r . n e t

Tuesday
Mar 1,2011

Various groups, institutions and individuals have responded positively to government’s request to support the victims of Gongo la Mboto bomb explosions, calling them to donate blood and any other necessities.

His Highness Princes Aga Khan Shia Imami Ismaili Council for Tanzania recently embarked on blood collection from its members for the injured and also distributed needful materials.

Ismaili Community volunteer Alkarim Hirani said the explosions had affected the whole country. It was, therefore, public obligation to support the victims so that the injured could get speedy recovery.

“We have decided to collect blood from our members to save the lives of bomb victims. The blood will be distributed to hospitals, where Bongo la Mboto bomb victims are admitted,” he said.

Hirani also called on other people to donate blood to help nurses and doctors work smoothly when attending to patients in need of blood.

“Doctors and nurses have played a great role in attending the injured people. However, we also need to support them by denoting more blood so that those, who need it get it on time,” he said.

According to him, blood collection was done at Aga Khan Hospital in Dare es Salaam.

Meanwhile, Hirani said the Isamili Community also collected from its members goods worth 4m/-, including blankets, mosquito nets, juice and glucose to support the victims at Saba Saba Grounds, Temeke Hospital and Amana Hospital in Dare es Salaam. He, however, said more support was still needed.

For his part, Muhimbili Public Relations officer Aminiel Aligaesha said volunteers went to the hospital to donate blood for the victims.

He, however, said more blood was needed and he was hopeful that more volunteers would still donate.

Source: The Guardian