The first Diamond Jubilee schools were built in the 1946, after Aga Khan III, Sir Sultan Mohamad Shah, announced over the radio from Bombay that the people of Gilgit-Baltistan should invest more in education.
Those first schools were not the Aga Khan Schools that dot the landscape of Gilgit-Baltistan today (106 in total), many of them custom-built with well-equipped libraries and laboratories with solar panels powering computer labs, all set in lush gardens. Diamond Jubilee schools had humble beginnings, starting out in Jamaat khana (Ismaili community centre) rooms and verandas. Often, classes were held under the open sky in summer moving inside in winter. One teacher, himself rarely a high school graduate (there were no female teachers then), would teach all the grades with a few books to share amongst as many as 100 students. The students were almost all boys.
The need for quality education was so great that a small grant, intended to establish just two schools, was stretched to setup approximately 42 schools.
Over the years, schools for girls were established and thus began a focus on women’s education. Today, more than half of the 40,000 students studying in AKES,P schools are female, and Gilgit-Baltistan enjoys among the highest literacy rates in the country.
The year 2016 marks 70 years of progress for Aga Khan Schools in Gilgit-Baltistan. To celebrate the occasion, we would like to share 7 stories of challenges, successes and growth.