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Aga Khan Inaugurates New Health Sciences Faculty on Nairobi Visit

The Aga Khan is on a 12-day visit across East Africa to celebrate 50 years as the leader of the world's 15 million Ismaili Muslims. As Nick Wadhams reports, his first stop was Nairobi, where he is meeting with government leaders and hundreds of his followers.

The Aga Khan inherited his title from his grandfather when he was 20 years old. Upon arriving in Nairobi, he was greeted by Kenya's foreign minister as well as traditional dancers. Hundreds of Ismailis showed up to greet him.

In a morning meeting, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki praised the Aga Khan for financing projects that he said had helped thousands of farmers along the Kenyan coast.

In the afternoon, the Aga Khan attended a ceremony at the university hospital that bears his name to inaugurate a new health sciences facility.

During the hospital event on Monday, the Aga Khan lamented the state of education across the developing world and said it was private universities like the Aga Khan's that could help alleviate those problems.

"It should be said in all candor that the recent history of higher education in numerous less-developed countries has been discouraging," he said. "Some African countries which had strong institutions of higher learning at the time of their independence now find themselves unable to achieve even minimum global standards."

On hand at the ceremony was Kenya's education minister, George Saitoti, who watched as the plans for the new faculty were unveiled. He said the Kenyan government was trying to expand Kenya's university system, which can only accommodate about 25 percent of students who want higher education.

"This ground breaking ceremony could not have come at a better time, when the ministry of education is currently involved in an elaborate program that is aimed at increasing access to university education," said Saitoti. "Our public universities are able to absorb only about 10,000 students each year. This has been as a result of the limited infrastructure to accommodate those who qualify."

The Aga Khan will next go to Mombasa to lay the foundation stone for a residential campus of the Aga Khan Academy.

In the last 40 years, the Aga Khan has overseen a massive growth in the development agencies he oversees. His agencies' work includes education, promoting entrepreneurship, and promoting culture and history.