An Important Request From Africa University
As I write you, our 1,300 students are on the campus of Africa University for the 2008/2009 academic year. As Zimbabwe deals with serious economic and political challenges, they are attending classes taught by our outstanding faculty and supported by our dedicated staff.
While Africa University has not missed a day of classes during this difficult time, we are now facing a crisis caused by escalating prices.
We need your help more than ever before: First, we seek your prayers for our university and our country. And, second, as our reserve accounts dwindle as a result of the nation's dire economic situation, we need your immediate financial support through the apportionments that come from the Africa University fund.
Since we opened to students in 1992, Africa University has been a jewel for Zimbabwe and for Africa. Our success is a result of United Methodists' unrelenting prayers and their commitment to support a world-class university.
Our graduates are key leaders in civil society, government, and the church all across Africa.
As about 400 new students and more than 800 returning students are taking their place on our campus, we owe our existence to the financial assistance from United Methodists around the world. That is why I am writing today, to report on what is happening here and tell you of our need for congregations to meet their apportionment obligations in full, and early.
The dedication of our students, faculty and staff is truly inspiring. During some recent periods, Africa University was the only institution of higher education that remained open across Zimbabwe.
Our students' families, faculty, and staff live in a country plagued by runaway inflation. Zimbabwe's hyperinflation, running officially at more than 11 million percent, has forced us to charge tuition and room and boarding fees monthly.
We know this creates a hardship for our Zimbabwean students and their parents, but in the current environment, we believe this is the best way to move forward.
We are conserving financial resources in every possible way. We have continued to meet our payroll, pay our bills and serve our community and continent. Nonetheless, we have been forced to deplete our reserve funds to meet day-to-day obligations.
As the 2008/2009 academic year gets underway, one of the ways we continue to serve is through our new Master's Degree program in Intellectual Property. More than 20 students from 12 countries have started their studies in an area that is important to the continent's economic development. Our partners in this area are the World Intellectual Property Organisation, based in Geneva, Switzerland, and the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation, located in Harare.
As our elected leaders struggle to find an equitable, peaceful resolution to Zimbabwe's political difficulties, Africa University stands ready to assist in seeking reconciliation and helping in the effort to rebuild our nation's economy.
The university's Institute of Peace Leadership and Governance is an important resource. The Institute is positioned to be part of the long-term solution of Zimbabwe's problems. It is highly respected throughout Zimbabwe and across Africa.
In July, the Institute trained and certified persons representing the 12 universities located in Zimbabwe to start teaching classes in peace and leadership on their campuses.
As part of a broad community, we have an obligation to help those who are less fortunate. Our Orphans and Vulnerable Children Program, administered by the Faculty of Health Sciences, provides life-sustaining nourishment, clothing and life skills to an estimated 5,000 children. Many of them have lost both parents as a result of the AIDS pandemic. This partnership between the Zimbabwe Annual Conference, UMCOR and Africa University has been studied as a model that can be duplicated in other African countries
Africa University continues to play an important role in the life of our church.
Just a few weeks ago, the Africa Central Conference met at Africa University to elect episcopal leaders for Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Seventy delegates, monitors and observers along with eight bishops from ten African countries met on our campus July 22-23.
In this conference, The Rev. Joaquina Filipe Nhanala was elected July 23 as the first female United Methodist bishop in Africa. She will serve as leader of the Mozambique Area. Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa was re-elected to lead the denomination's Zimbabwe area.
During this extraordinary time in Zimbabwe, we are committed to do everything we can to meet our mission to provide a quality education within a Pan-African context. We strive to help persons acquire knowledge and skills, grow in spiritual maturity; develop sound moral values, ethics and leadership qualities.
In the context of Zimbabwe, Africa University is doing exceedingly well. Our campus is safe. Our faculty is well qualified and respected around the world. Our students are dedicated to learning and excited to be in school.
That is why your continued support is so important. The financial situation in Zimbabwe has necessitated this communication.
If at all possible, we humbly ask you to meet your Africa University apportionment obligations early and in full. This will enable us to continue operating at current levels without having to eliminate important academic programs.
Along with your financial support, we ask for your prayers, for our university, and for our nation as it struggles to find its way during this season of unease.
Grace and peace,
Interim Vice Chancellor, African University Mutare, Zimbabwe