Prince William Connects with School Kids Over Princess Diana: 'I Was a Big Fan of My Mother Too'
The royal couple stepped out for the first major outing of their tour of Pakistan on Tuesday and headed to the Islamabad Model College for Girls, where they bonded with a group of teenagers over their shared admiration for Princess Diana.
Fourteen-year-old Aima told William and Kate they were “big fans” of the royal’s late mother. William smiled and replied: “You were, really? Oh, that’s very sweet of you. I was a big fan of my mother too.”
“She came here three times. I was very small,” he continued, speaking of Diana’s visits to Pakistan in the 1990s. “This is my first time, and it is very nice to be here and meet you all.”
For the outing, Kate, 37, made sure to embrace Pakistan’s culture and style by wearing a royal blue shalwar kameez — the country’s national dress — and a dupatta by Pakistani designer Maheen Khan. She completed the look with a pair of beige shoes.
William, 37, meanwhile, kept it traditional in a light blue button-down shirt, black pants, and black shoes.
While at the school, William and Kate toured classrooms of children between the ages of 4 and 18 and highlighted the benefits of young girls pursuing higher education and professional careers.
The royals beamed as they entered the school side-by-side before greeting teachers and meeting with a classroom full of kindergarteners, whom they sweetly introduced themselves to and interacted with.
Aima, who hopes to be a brain surgeon someday, also asked the future king what he wanted to be when he grew up.
“Actually I changed a lot as I got older, but I always wanted to learn to fly. I was flying for a while a actually,” he replied. “I love flying, I feel very free [and) I like learning a skill, I enjoy that. I can relate the science of what you do.”
William and Kate even sat down at the tiny tables where the students were sitting to shake their hands and chat with the little boys and girls.
From there, the couple immersed themselves in all the school had to offer, including a program called “Teach for Pakistan”, which is helping to recruit and encourage graduates and professionals from various fields to become teachers. Focusing on schools in disadvantaged areas, the program aims to reduce inequality in education.
“Access to quality education, particularly to girls and young women is one of the U.K.’s top priorities in Pakistan,” the couple’s spokesman said ahead of the royal tour.
Area education officer Mohammed Sohailkhan also echoed those sentiments to reporters on Tuesday, noting that the quality of education, particularly for girls, varied across the country.
“In recent years there has been gradual progress in understanding how important education is for girls and young women. There is a realization of what it can mean in terms of jobs and prospects,” he said. “I can’t paint you an entirely rosy picture. It does still fluctuate wildly, particularly in rural regions, where there has traditionally been cultural barriers towards this, notably in terms of sending girls away to college. But these barriers are slowly being broken down.”
The outing was their first opportunity to meet “young Pakistanis, and hear more about their aspirations for the future,” which is one of the couple’s hopes for their tour of the country, the spokesman added.
The couple arrived in Pakistan on Monday evening after an eight-hour flight on a government Voyager airplane from a Royal Air Force base just outside London.
They will spend the next four days viewing projects in the capital before heading to the vibrant city of Lahore and also learning more about the effects of climate change in the north of the country.
On Tuesday, they will follow their tour of the school in Islamabad with a visit to a school in Margallah Hills — at the foot of the Himalayas. They will join children from three schools as they take on various activities, including setting a leopard camera trap and a project to help identify and remove harmful plants that are threatening the environment.
Later in the day, the couple will formally meet the President of Pakistan, Dr. Arif Alvi, at the Presidential Palace and then hold an official meeting with Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan.
The meeting will mark a poignant moment for William, as Khan knew his mother Princess Diana – and spent some time together with her when she visited Pakistan only a few months before her sudden death in August 1997.