Rev. Sophirina Sign has had a lifelong passion for learning, a thirst for answers that drives her ministry as well as her studies.
When asked how faith has shaped her career, she explained, “Through reflecting on the things I believe in my heart as a Christian, living a life governed by Christ’s principles and being a good student of God’s Word — being exemplary in whatever I do.”
Sign is an adjunct lecturer in social sciences at Africa University and a member of the first class to enroll in the new joint doctoral program between Africa University and Wesley House Cambridge. Like many of her peers, she is launching her studies while continuing her full-time ministry as a pastor and educator. She chose to be both a teacher and a student at a United Methodist institution because she sees firsthand how the UM educational approach helps to grow the whole person.
“United Methodist education has a holistic approach to education, that is, it considers the nurturing of the following aspects: the mental, physical, social, moral and spiritual,” she said.
Sign wants to further emphasize the social aspect of that holistic approach in Africa, so that it incorporates culture and social location to an even greater extent. Her specific field of interest in social sciences is Christian education and she plans to focus her doctoral studies in that area. Sign’s ultimate goal is to write and publish Christian education books that can benefit her school and community. Right now, she sees a gap in the resources available to Christian educators in Zimbabwe and neighboring countries. Many of the books and tools that are currently available in these regions are not written with local context and cultures in mind.
“I have observed that the models we currently have in place are not addressing the real issues and needs of an African Christian,” said Sign.
By building a case study of the Marange District of the United Methodist Church in the Zimbabwe East Annual Conference, Sign will use her dissertation to further explore existing approaches to Christian education in Africa and propose a new model that is more tailored to the African context.
“The current models are failing due to the fact that the curriculum has been imposed from above. It does not start from the grassroots where the child is bred and groomed,” she said. “Christian education must be taken to the people and not wait for them to participate once a week during class meetings and Sunday school. The current models disregard African culture and experience.”
As she progresses through her research, Sign expects that the Africa University-Wesley House program will help her improve her ability to teach and spread God’s word, both in her current roles and as a future publisher.
“I will be in a position to be a better teacher or lecturer as well as a better pastor in my community, sharing acquired knowledge though writing books to benefit my school and the communities,” she said.
Stay tuned for more “Meet the Scholars” profiles of the first Africa University-Wesley House doctoral class.
About the joint program: The Africa University-Wesley House joint doctoral program is designed to expand the teaching and research capacity for United Methodist institutions in Africa by increasing the number of educators with doctorates and a deep knowledge of local needs and contexts. The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) and the Central Conference Theological Education Fund (CCTEF) have both provided financial support to make this possible.
About GBHEM: The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry embraces the ministry of learning and leadership formation in The United Methodist Church and the Wesleyan tradition; serving Christians around the world who are shaped by a process of intellectual engagement, spiritual and character formation, and leadership development. We cultivate a dynamic culture of call and vocational discernment that encourages lay and clergy leaders to discover, claim and flourish in God’s ministry and mission for the Church, the academy and the world. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook: @GBHEM.