“We Appreciate” – Poem and Voices from the Aga Khan University East Africa Convocations: Graduates and Families Speak About Hopes and Express Gratitude to University’s Founder, His Highness the Aga Khan

I. Convocations

By Shariffa Keshavjee
(Special to Simerg)

The Parklands Pavillion was transformed to host the Aga Khan University convocation ceremony in Nairobi. AKDN / Zahur Ramji

The Parklands Pavillion was transformed to host the Aga Khan University convocation ceremony in Nairobi. AKDN / Zahur Ramji

Convocations are commencements
Reflecting the past
Looking at the future


The guiding rope
That God has cast
We hold fast to it
The pendulum moves

We appreciate

The circular geometry
It binds us together
It moves from within
To the outer world

We appreciate

Al-Azhar to Karachi
To the cities of Africa
The circle expands
Rippling across the world

We appreciate

The multiplier effect
Touching humanity
Endowing knowledge

We appreciate

From early childhood
Through adolescence
Critical thinking leading
To research and leadership

We appreciate

The ethics and humility
Igniting civil society
To stand on guard
For both God and man

To appreciate

Justice its shield
Standing together
Holding fast-moving
With the here and now


The global movement
It’s local impact
Standing in unity
Of human diversity

We appreciate

In awe of the vision
Of the action
Of collaboration
Harmony cooperation

We appreciate

Copyright: Shariffa Keshavjee. March 2015.


II. Voices of Graduates

Interviews by Shariffa Keshavjee
(Special to Simerg)

IN NAIROBI, March 2, 2015

Mary Wambua Mwaniki was graduating with a BSc in nursing. Her mother, Rose had come all the way from Kinangop to be present at this important milestone in Mary’s life. Kinangop was 130 kilometres away, John Mwaniki, the father said.  It had taken them one and a half hours to get here. They had travelled very early, the morning of  2nd March, 2015.

Benson, the brother, had come from Limuru. He is a teacher at the Boys School in Limuru called Ngina Boys School. It has 900 students.

Mary Mwaniki

Mary Mwaniki

Mary, the graduate, has been working in the Kangema district of Muranga. She is the nurse in charge of the Kangema district. She looks after the health facilities in the hospitals.  Now she will be equipped with better knowledge and better skills with a degree that is recognized all over the world.

The Mwaniki’s are farmers. They grow wheat, beans, potatoes, and maize. They sell these to the market. The truck comes to Kinangop and takes the produce to Nairobi to sell. The truck driver pays on collection of the produce. The truck driver collects from other farmers too, so prices are fair.

They feel eternally grateful that  His Highness the Aga Khan has brought this University here in Kenya.


Regina Wasua

Regina Wasua

Regina Wasua was enjoying her success with her daughter. She said she enjoyed the hot bhajias and mogo cooked with coconut . The graduation day was a very special day for her. She graduated in General Nursing and Midwifery. She works at the Martyr Hospital. It was financially easy for her to graduate. The facilities at Aga Khan University (AKU) were good and easily accessible. She takes the bus from Dagoretti Corner.  She was very proud to be Alumnae of AKU.  She wants to mentor other nurses  to take up further education and says, “When I encourage other nurses, when they take up the challenge, I will be at their graduation with a big smile on my face.”


Juma Hero graduated with a BSc in nursing. “He is alumnae of Aga Khan Primary!!” his mother exclaimed proudly.  The mother’s name is Maua. She is sixty. Mariam the sister is studying Information Technology at Strathmore College. She said, “affordable education is very important for Kenya. We can only progress when we have access to quality education.”

Juma Hiro

Juma Hiro

Hero is a clinician at the Katumani Health Centre.  It was a proud moment for all as he stood up to invoke the prayer to commence the convocation ceremony.


“My name is Gerald Kiti. I have come to celebrate my mother’s graduation. Her name is Margaret Kedzo Kiti. She is graduating with a BSc in nursing. She has been working as a nurse in Mombasa at the Aga Khan Hospital. She also worked at Maridian in Nairobi West.

Margaret Kedso Kiti

Margaret Kedso Kiti

“The Aga Khan is a great place to study and work at the same time. Margaret wants to be a part of the Aga Khan. She wants to give back to the Aga Khan. My mother wants to serve humanity, be a good nurse, give a good name to the Aga Khan University.”


Gerald is a Law Student at the University of Nairobi, Parklands Campus. He would like to go the Law School when the Aga Khan opens the department. He wants to be a corporate lawyer.

He is very grateful to the Aga Khan because he thinks education is a way to serve humanity.


IN KAMPALA, February 26, 2015

Ben Kavagand  Kisolo was sporting a red tie. He was ver happy. His daughter was graduating from the best university,the Aga Khan University.

Ben was proud to talk about Irankunda Annette Mbona. She was graduating from the School of Nursing and Midwifery at the Aga Khan University. She received a diploma in general nursing and midwifery. Annette is 27. She has waited long to graduate.

Irankunda Annette Mbona

Irankunda Annette Mbona

She was grateful that AKU gave her the opportunity to work and to study. AKU has the best programme, she said. Annette works in the general Mobity Hospital. Her patients are mothers. They come to her for prenatal, postnatal and delivery. She encourages others to watch their diet, and come to the clinic regularly.

She follows up, doing home visits. She helps with transport too. If mothers are sick, she refers them to the right doctor. She said she prays that the Aga Khan is blessed with a long life, and good health and continues to give many more courses to the great Aga Khan University.

Kunja Juvanita is getting her BSc in Nursing. She is beautiful at 32, and is ambitious. Although she has a 6-year-old and a 7 month baby that she breast feeds, she pursues her career. She has a very  good maid who helps her with the children.

Kunja Juvanita

Kunja Betty is her mum. They share the name Kunja, it is a family name.  They paid 2 million Uganda shillings for Kunja’s education.  They chose AKU because it is the best. She can study, work and look after her children. This is truly the way forward. Her husband too has a career in medicine.


Ruth Seronjogi is at the Makerere Business School. Her speciality is procurement. She has a diploma in procurement. She was sponsored by the church and went back to college. She went to Kendu Bay, in Kenya to study. She did nursing and midwifery at 7th Day Adventist Hospital in Kendu Bay. The Church organised for her to go there.

Her husband Edward, liked Delhi. His brother encouraged him because he had studied in Pune and really admired the schooling in India. He enjoyed the hospitality of the family he lived with. Staying in the same house he made friends. He loves Indian cuisine, especially biryani and sev which he said is like sweet spaghetti in the way of explanation.

He said the  Indians do not grow matoke as we do here. They eat their plantain boiled, cut in half, put chillies and salt in the middle…..pilipili bananas.

Ruth and Edward came to see their daughter Deborah graduate as a nurse. Edward was working as a Deputy Vice Chancellor at the Bungoma University for two years. He then worked at the Baraton University of East Africa for two years.


Rebecca Najma Perpetua

Rebecca Najma Perpetua

Rebecca Najma Perpetua has a diploma in nursing. She was working at the Kampala International Hospital. This hospital was inaugurated by Dr. Ian Clark, a renowned medical personality. He was also involved as a politician. He was a mayor in the Machinde district.
Now Rebecca has a BSc in nursing.


Doreen Namitembi is a celebrity. Her family including husband Paul and mother Victoria were all there to see her graduate from AKU. She used to be at the St. Francis Hospital in Sambia before joining AKU. Here she learnt a lot. It is the best University in Kampala. Her career improved. She learnt a lot about Paediatric care. She wanted to be a part of an International University, such as the Aga Khan.

As she graduates, she is self-employed. She has a clinic, with three rooms where she provides pre-natal, post-natal care, and deals with mother and child nutrition as well as HIV and malaria. Her clinic is in Masangua district. She encourages expectant moms to come to clinics regularly. She refers special cases to doctors in the nearby hospital.

Doreen Namitembi

Doreen Namitembi

Doreen is a Nalongo. It means she is a mother of twins. She has twin girls.

Doreen’s husband  is Paul. He is working for a Pakistani Company, called Prime Health Care. He deals with medical equipment. He exports X-ray machines, hospital beds, forceps and, dental chairs to China, Pakistan and Germany, and elsewhere. His wish is to sell medical equipment to all Aga Khan Hospitals, because he offers the best customer care. He often travels to China to ensure customer care. Paul’s mother was also there to celebrate. Her name is Annette Joyce Kamoga

Doreen’s mother is Victoria Wamela, She is 56. After high school she went to a secretarial college. She buys crops such as beans, maize, rice for the Marketing Board of Kampala. She has been doing this for the last twenty years.


IN DAR-ES-SALAAM, February 24, 2015

The Diamond Jubilee Hall was gradually filling up, and the momentum picked up. The hopeful eyes of parents and families, their bouquets held tight, expectant hearts astir. One such family member was Sophia. Her sister Halima Ludanga was getting a Master’s degree in Education. Up to this time she was teaching in Morogoro. She had taught for long. It was time to move on and she decided to apply to AKU. Sophia said the government helped.

Everyone in the family too had to help. First, although it was a scholarship, there were expenses to be met. Often Halima travelled from Morogoro, and she could not get back because she  worked late. At these times, her sister’s house was open. Arriving exhausted , the house was a warm place of comfort and food. A bed to rest her head. She was leaving behind a husband and two children, a sixteen year old boy and a ten-year old daughter. This was part of the journey.



Sophia said that when the dissertation got tough, Halima wanted to give up. But she would step in to encourage, counsel and give hope to Halima. There were times of despair when the dissertation was not accepted. It had to be worked on.

Sophia was beautifully dressed. She had a bouquet in her hand. She said she was truly happy for Halima on this memorable day in her life.

Halima only had a diploma. Now she has a degree. This is a big step.  She does not have to work on a district hospital any more. She can move to a referral hospital. More opportunities. Different people. New experiences.

“So very happy. More than you will ever know,” Sophia said.

Sophia herself worked in Kampala. She was a social worker for the Government. She also worked for AMREF. She learneda lot as she worked . Now she was running her own company, which is called STEP AHEAD.

And indeed Sophia believes in stepping ahead., and she wanted her sister Halima to step ahead too. Three years was a long journey. Every bit was worth it.

“Thanks to AKU?”, I asked.  “Thanks to the Aga Khan for giving us this opportunity in Tanzania.  thank you to AKU to help them Step Ahead,” Sophia replied, adding “I commend the degree in Midwifery. We need care before, during and after pregnancy.  It is very important for a mother to feel supported through out.”

She feels that more and more nurses and midwives should graduate to cope with the growing demand. She emphasised the importance of nutrition, regular check ups as this “gives us confidence.”

She left me with a big hug, sharing her own happiness.


I met Elizabeth James Makarenga. She was tall and elegant. A lady in red, her headscarf impressive.

She said to me, “I am dressed in red like you. I am happy. My sister Alice George Makalema is graduating today. Alice was working in an Army Hospital. It was time to move  on. She had also worked at the Manyara Dareda Mission Hospital.

Alice George Makalema

Alice applied to the Aga Khan because it was the best. Here she could study more, expand her knowledge and become more skillful. The exposure and the opportunity to exchange ideas were important. She now wants to apply to the Palacina National Hospital. She wants to work with the Government.

Date posted: March 11, 2015.
Last updated: March 13, 2015 (typos).

Copyright: Shariffa Keshavjee.

Note: Except where otherwise stated, photos shown above are still shots from the videos of the convocation ceremonies produced by the Aga Khan Development Network (www.akdn.org).


Shariffa Keshavjee with Graduates in Nairobi. Photo: Shariffa Keshavjee

Shariffa Keshavjee with graduates in Nairobi. Photo: Shariffa Keshavjee.

About the writer: Shariffa Keshavjee is  a philanthropist and an entrepreneur with an objective to help women empower themselves. Raised in Kisumu, she considers herself a “pakaa” Kenyan. She is now based in the nation’s capital, Nairobi. Her other interest is in visual arts where she delights in painting on wood, silk and porcelain using water colours, oils and acrylics. She also likes writing, especially for children, and bird watching.

Feedback: We welcome feedback/letters from our readers. Please click Leave a comment or submit your letter to simerg@aol.com. Your feedback may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.

Links to a selection of articles by Shariffa Keshavjee on simerg and simergphotos:

  1. Bagamoyo’s Historic Ismaili Jamatkhana Through Pictures, Poetry and Prose
  2. Inferno of Alamut
  3. The Jamatkhana in Toronto — “A Seed of Faith Planted…” by Shariffa Keshavjee
  4. My Fascination with the Once “Exotic” World of Paan
  5. The Amazing Story of Kundan Paatni: A Graduate of the Aga Khan Nursing School in Nairobi in the 1960s

One thought on ““We Appreciate” – Poem and Voices from the Aga Khan University East Africa Convocations: Graduates and Families Speak About Hopes and Express Gratitude to University’s Founder, His Highness the Aga Khan

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s