IN THE MEDIA: Journey to Literacy in Northern Pakistan

29 January 2018

The real credit for starting a vigorous and consistent struggle to inculcate the importance of education among the people of Gilgit-Baltistan goes to Sir Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan III. On the completion of 50 years of Imamat, he emphasised the priority of education by saying, “Give education to your children, give education, give education.”

As described in the Dawn Newspaper, more than 100 years ago, the northern areas of the subcontinent — namely Gilgit-Baltistan — had very low illiteracy rates. As a result, the foundation of the education system begun by setting up schools at the primary level. In contrast to those times, the current standard of education in the northern areas is comparable to, if not better than, that of Pakistan’s larger towns.

The real credit for starting a vigorous and consistent struggle to inculcate the importance of education among the people of Gilgit-Baltistan goes to Sir Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan III, the longest-serving (1885-1957) Imam of the Ismaili community. He strove to bring improvements in the education, health and economic conditions of the Ismaili community and the communities among which they lived. On the completion of 50 years of Imamat, his golden jubilee celebrations were held in Bombay [Mumbai] and Nairobi in 1936 and 1937 respectively. On these occasions he emphasised the priority of education by saying, “Give education to your children, give education, give education.”

The Aga Khan III’s Diamond Jubilee was celebrated in 1946, and he reciprocated by establishing the Diamond Jubilee Schools — D.J. Schools — in Gilgit-Baltistan. On completing 70 years of Imamat, he was weighed in platinum by members of his community from all over the world, who had gathered in Karachi in 1954. Such was his enthusiasm for spreading the flame of education, that the funds so generated were used to set up more D.J. Schools in Gilgit-Baltistan.

The Aga Khan III’s educational mission was continued by his successor, Prince Karim Aga Khan IV, with the same zeal and spirit. Besides the northern areas, Aga Khan Schools were established in Karachi and Hyderabad. In 1986 the Aga Khan Education Services, Pakistan (AKES, P) was established with the responsibility of framing policies for Aga Khan schools in the region. Today, Aga Khan Education Services operates more than 200 schools and educational programmes across Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Tanzania, Tajikistan, Uganda and the United Arab Emirates, serving over 75,000 students.

Learn more:
AKDN
The Ismaili
Dawn
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