By Bonnie James
QATAR Foundation’s Education City hosted its historic inaugural senior convocation yesterday to celebrate the graduation of 122 students from four university campuses, in the presence of a galaxy of global and regional leaders and academicians.
The ceremony honoured students from the inaugural classes of Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, and Texas A&M University at Qatar, as well as the seventh graduating class of Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar.
The gathering, led by HH the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and his wife HH Sheikha Mozah Nasser al-Misnad, had South African President Thabo Mbeki, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid al-Maktoum among the prominent guests.
Qatar Prime Minister and Foreign Minister HE Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al-Thani, Deputy Premier and Minister of Energy and Industry HE Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah, several other members of the Cabinet, leading citizens, diplomats and dignitaries from various walks of life were also present.
Addressing the graduates, HH the Emir focused on the importance of education and the unique opportunity that Education City offers. He also expressed his appreciation to HH Sheikha Mozah for her commitment and tireless efforts to make Education City a reality.
“All the thanks and gratitude of all Qataris go to you, Sheikha Um Jassim, for devoting your time, energy and efforts to elevate our country by implementing the reform of our national education system and raising the standard of our people,” he said. “It is now a reality of which we can all be proud.”
It was a moment of pride for the graduates, comprising 67 Qataris and 55 others from 17 nationalities, when their names flashed on the big screens as they stepped onto the stage at the Ceremonial Court to receive their rings.
One of the highlights of the event was the presence of the globally acclaimed Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, which provided musical interludes and accompanied Italian operatic pop tenor and classical crossover singer Andrea Bocelli and Iraqi singer Kathem al-Saher providing a fitting finale.
The ceremony began with Qatar National Anthem, performed by Qatar Army Band with vocals provided by the choir of Qatar Academy, Education City’s K-12 international school, followed by a procession of the deans, faculty members and the graduates.
Subsequently, the Education City Anthem, ‘Madeenatul elm’ (City of Knowledge) was performed by the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra with vocals by the student choir.
In his welcome speech, Qatar Foundation’s vice president of education Abdulla Ali al-Thani described the occasion “as a day when we harvest the fruits of years of hard work”, and went on to give an overview of Education City’s progress during the past 13 years of its existence.
“Today, you leave the coast of our haven, in the boat of our future, sail all over the world with confidence,” he urged the graduates while reminding them that they have been given an opportunity that might be one of the most important and precious in their life: “knowledge and education at its best, according to the highest quality standards”.
The screening of a video on Education City, specially produced for the convocation, was followed by three representatives, each from the four universities, depositing select articles in a time capsule, which is to be opened after 10 years.
HH Sheikha Mozah then deposited a signed list of all the distinguished leaders and special guests from around the world that attended the ceremony.
Qatar Foundation president Mohamed Fathy Saoud and Abdulla al-Thani presented rings to the graduating students.
“Our gathering here today to celebrate the graduation of a new generation of students is the realisation of our vision,” HH Sheikha Mozah said.
“We are still at the beginning but today is an important step for Education City in that our graduates will now go forth and use their knowledge to help Qatar grow by contributing to our national development,” she added.
In between, the Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies (QFIS) dean Hatem al-Karanshawi spoke about the institution which was established in Education City in September 2007.
“The vision of QFIS is to become a focus of thought and dialogue that leads research and debate in all that relates to Islam and Muslims, be that contemporary concerns, or issues of heritage,” he said.
QFIS, which presently has 39 students from 16 nationalities in three academic programmes, is to establish research centres, the first of which will be named after Qatar-based Islamic scholar Sheikh Yousuf al-Qaradawi, the president of the International Association of Muslim Scholars, as designated by HH Sheikha Mozah.
“The El Qaradawi Centre for Research in Moderate Thought will be followed by other centres that will work on areas of research such as the study of contemporary Muslim societies, Islamic urban planning and architecture, Islamic governance, Islamic financial product and environment issues,” al-Karanshawi added.
For over a decade, Qatar Foundation has been engaged in a ground-breaking project to bring some of the world’s top universities to Education City, in line with its founder HH the Emir’s vision to provide an elite educational environment in the heart of the Gulf.
Education City, described as an academic hub, is now home to six universities, with Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar and Northwestern University in Qatar being the two most recent additions.]
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