His Highness Prince Karim the Aga Khan asks me to thank you for reading this blog.
Convocation, or graduation of last year’s students, took place on Wednesday. What a great occasion! Different to the equivalent in the UK, robes are worn according to job rather than highest degree held, so here I am wearing faculty robes. Have to say, one thing I really like about this picture is that it makes the headgear look even more outlandish than it actually is, as is probably obvious, that’s a shrub behind me as is made clear in this picture:
Convocation is taken very seriously, with very senior people coming from the Aga Khan University. Similar to US Universities, a whole number of people have titles which imply that they are ultimately in charge – the President, the Provost, the Director General, the Chancellor. Whereas, of course, in the UK tradition, those in charge have titles which imply that they’re not, eg. Vice Chancellor of a University and Permanent Secretary of a Government ministry. I’m sure that there’s a moral here somewhere…
Part of the package for our students is that they agree to be on call as Professional Development Tutors to undertake workshops across East Africa, so this was a great occasion to meet the group whom I hadn’t, of course, worked with, in order to promote the idea and to take contact and other information to help to arrange this in due course. Many of our current students also attended, partly to support those from previous years. James, the husband of our director Pauline, suggested that we could sing the National Anthem rather than use a recording, so I’m currently memorizing it, so far up to, ‘Mungu ibariki Afrika / Wabariki jeongozi wake’, more coming soon! Same tune as the South African National Anthem.
Before I finish on Convocation, a couple more pictures:
The other thing I wanted to tell you about is Sunday School. I’m now a leader with the 9-11 group! And this morning I was the main leader for the session! Thought we could start with some singing, went for, ‘Higher (x8) lift up Jesus higher’. It is, of course, essential whilst singing this to be pointing upwards, eventually getting to arms fully outstretched, and then to start jumping up and down to make the point, we REALLY do want to lift Jesus higher! Was feeling slightly disappointed that the children weren’t responding to my enthusiasm in singing and doing the actions when they helpfully – and with some alarm – pointed out that I was millimetres away from having my fingers lopped off by the ceiling mounted fan going full pelt. How long is it that I’ve been here now? And still so much to learn…. Hopefully I won’t suffer too many injuries in completing my education.
Session seemed to go well, certainly I enjoyed it! As I was leaving the building I was waylaid by a girl aged about 6 who very solemnly shook hands with me. When I tried to speak to her it became apparent that she didn’t speak English, we were in the interchange time between the English and Swahili morning services, so it’s likely that she was there for the latter. I decided that a way to make a connection was to sing the National Anthem as far as I got, which seemed to work. Whilst this was going on, we were joined by a boy aged about 3 wearing a t-shirt including the word ‘Santa’. I was about to make a suitable remark, when I realized that the caption in full read, ‘Who needs Santa? I’ve got credit.’
At a wider Aga Khan family event a few months ago I met a businessman who imports and distributes second hand clothes from the United States, collected there by charities. I’m guessing that this is how this t-shirt got here. Now, was this t-shirt just part of a general pile, or did some idiot manufacturer have them printed, find they weren’t selling in the US (or wherever) and decide to cut his losses by sending them here? I console myself that certainly the boy, and likely also his parents and other adults around him, don’t understand what this caption is saying, and probably like me initially are only picking up on the word ‘Santa’. But who – WHO – in their right mind can think that this is a suitable caption for a t-shirt at all, let alone one in a size for a very young child? I like to think that I have a sense of humour but I cannot find it in my heart to see the funny side of this. I’m left feeling angry and embarrassed that westerners like me see fit to dump our rubbish on this wonderful and special continent, full of loving and gracious people.
OK, rant over. Any suggestions for positive action gratefully received. Struggling slightly with my Internet connection, hoping to return to weekly posts shortly. Monitoring usage figures is becoming a borderline obsession, it’s great to have your support, thank you.