Recently, Rafiq Hakim Ali, a graduate of the Sultan Mahomed Shah (SMS) Aga Khan School’s class of 1986, decided to get in touch with his former classmates.
“We are spread all over the world,” he said. “I called and visited old friends in the US, UAE and of course, Pakistan.” Mr. Ali reunited 10 former students of the school and close friends, many of whom had not been in touch for almost 33 years.
This rekindling of old friendships was more than just personally rewarding for him. Together the former students, now alumni, decided they wanted to give back to the school where they spent so many years together learning, exploring and shaping who they are today.
This resolve to give back has already resulted in their collective efforts to improve the local environment, with 500 trees being planted at the SMS Aga Khan School, including 154 trees planted as a 516 square foot urban forest comprised of 14 species of local trees, including mulberry, almond, fig, lemon and tamarind.
The idea for an urban forest blossomed when Faisal Islam, one of Mr. Ali’s fellow graduates revisited the school with his family. As Mr. Islam was proudly showing the school’s grounds and open spaces to his wife Dr. Majda Kazmi, an assistant professor at NED University, she remarked that it would be an ideal place to plant a small forest. When Siraj Narsi, also a former student of SMS Aga Khan School, heard about this unique project he offered to sponsor the plants. Meanwhile, the cost of preparing the ground for the forest and planting the trees was contributed by Mr. Ali and his friends.
The SMS Aga Khan School is situated in the heart of Karachi, a sprawling metropolis home to more than 15 million people. Like many other large cities around the world, Karachi’s green spaces are under increasing pressures of urbanisation and growth. This gift of greenery is not just a gift for the school, but for the people and the urban wildlife inhabiting the surrounding areas.
The forest was inaugurated on 2 November 2020 by the Vice Chancellor of the NED University of Engineering and Technology, Dr. Sarosh Hashmat Lodi, and the Chairperson of the Aga Khan Education Service, Pakistan, Mr. Moez Narsi.
In addition, many other plans are underway to make the 23 acre campus even more environmentally friendly - with support from alumni, the school plans to plant 1,000 more trees, surrounding the school on all sides with lush green vegetation.
The 10 alumni are currently in talks with the school about generating solar electricity to meet the school’s energy requirements and recycling water for use in the grounds.
Meanwhile, the Aga Khan Education Service, Pakistan is planning to replicate the urban forest model in other schools that have the required space. “We want to make our schools green and educate students on the importance of the critical environmental challenges the world faces,” explained Mr. Imtiaz Momin, CEO. “Planting small forests where students can observe their growth, science in nature and contribute to enhancing and caring for their local environment, is an excellent way to achieve our aims.”
Photos (top to bottom):
- The newly planted urban forest contains 154 trees comprised of 14 species of local trees, including mulberry, almond, fig, lemon and tamarind
- The Aga Khan Education Service, Pakistan is planning to replicate the urban forest model in other schools that have the required space
- The Chairman of the Aga Khan Education Service, Pakistan (watering, at left) and the Vice Chancellor of NED University, Dr. Sarosh Hashmat Lodi (center), in the urban forest at the Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan School