I’ve spoken previously about my belief in education as being the magic bullet to deal with the many problems of various societies.
Below are several excerpts from a speech delivered by the Aga Khan at the opening of a new academy in Kenya, and I think they are fairly representative of my own thoughts on the matter.
A new school looks to a better world, for it exists to help students develop the character, intellect and mental resilience that will enable them to prosper in circumstances that we can only imagine. If it becomes a great school, it will educate its students not merely to be personally successful but also to use their gifts to build their communities and enhance the common good to levels beyond our dreams.
In troubling ways we see a world more deeply divided, farther from the great ideals of tolerance and respect among nations, faiths and peoples that emerged from the devastation of World War II, than at any time since the end of the Colonial Era. We know too well the divisions on the continent of Africa, of rich from poor, of the gravely ill from the healthy and well fed, of ethnic and religious groups set against one another by fear and incomprehension, or greed and ambition, although they may for centuries have inhabited the same villages.
These conditions are dismaying, but I believe that this is also a time of great promise: that men and women of integrity, understanding and generosity of spirit can create the human institutions that will lay foundations of knowledge, trust and tolerance for bridging these terrible divides.
The effective world of the future is one of pluralism-that is to say, a world that comprehends and accepts differences. But such a world must be based on a new intellectual and spiritual equality and it must be educated to see in pluralism, opportunities for growth in all areas of human endeavour. History has shown in every part of the world and at every time, that the rejection of pluralism and the attempt to normatise the human race has always resulted in factionalism, oppressiveness and economic and social regression.
Education can be our great equalizer. It allows us to see beyond ourselves and deeply into ourselves. Everyone has the spark of imagination, but is it given fuel? is it fanned high? is the flame recognized as something beneficial rather than destructive? I won’t belabor the point. Every waking moment is a learning moment. Do we accept that trust from God?