Africa University conducts 11th graduation
June 3, 2005
By Andra Stevens*
MUTARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS)--Tears flowed freely on the Africa University campus as an over-capacity crowd witnessed the university's 11th graduation ceremony.
The hundreds of people who turned out for the May 28 ceremony filled every inch of the open-air venue. They came to celebrate the achievements of the largest graduating class in the institution's history.
The years of sacrifice, hope and hard work have paid off for Pipa Ferraz de Liberdade Nazare and she could hardly believe it. "I'm almost without words to describe how I feel," she said. "Leaving this place is a big achievement in my life."
Nazare came from Angola in 1999 to study at Africa University. She didn't see her family or return home during the five years it took to learn English and then complete her bachelor of divinity degree. She said it hasn't been easy getting by with letters sent back and forth by hand and the occasional brief phone call just to hear her mother's voice.
The 30-year old Nazare is the fourth child of eight and the first in her family with a university education. Her parents, a road engineer and nurse, had no way of paying for her education so she was granted a full scholarship by Africa University. The funds that supported Nazare came from a scholarship endowed in perpetuity by United Methodist churches in the denomination's East Ohio Annual (regional) Conference and for her it was a life-changing gift.
"This is a dream fulfilled, not only for me, but for my family and my church which have been supporting me very much," said Nazare. "I came here barely speaking English, expecting to gain the skills to serve my church and community. I've had a wonderful experience that has been both challenging and rewarding. Now I have what I came for and a lot more confidence, too."
Stories like Nazare's are not uncommon in this year's graduating class. Fellow graduate Dryford Mpunga is going back home to Malawi with a bachelor's degree in agriculture and natural resources. He was one of four students sent by the United Methodists in Malawi to train at Africa University so that they can initiate development projects for the churches there. Mpunga was also supported by scholarship funds from the East Ohio Conference.
Nazare and Mpunga are among the 391 young people in the graduating class of 2005. There are students from 14 African countries representedâ€”Angola, Burundi,
Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Estub Neway from Ethiopia came to Africa University because there were large numbers of students chasing too few places in the universities in his country and choices were limited. He gave up studying literature in Addis Ababa to obtain a marketing degree at Africa University.
Others were drawn to the institution by its reputation for quality, Pan-African nature and their desire for an active role in changing their communities. Emmanuel Naweji, a young man from the Democratic Republic of Congo, wanted to learn English as well as agriculture. He now feels a call to the ministry and hopes to train as a pastor.
"I want to work through the church," said Naweji, "because I believe the church is the route to positive change."
Lydia Banda read about the university in the newspapers and left her teaching job at a rural school to pursue training for a career in social work, majoring in psychology and sociology. With her bachelor's degree, Banda envisions a future working with children and adults in rural communities, advocating for rural development through indigenous knowledge systems.
Undergraduates form the majority of this year's graduating class, with 354 bachelor's degree and 37 master's degree recipients. The faculties of Education and Humanities and Social Sciences awarded undergraduate degrees only. Humanities and Social Sciences, with 172 bachelor's degree recipients, contributed close to half of this year's graduates. Education had 41 students in the graduating class.
In the Faculty of Management and Administration, 79 students received their bachelor's degrees in accounting, economics, marketing and administration, while 7 were awarded either the regular or executive MBA degrees.
The Faculty of Theology had 36 students graduating this year--30 with the bachelor of divinity degree and six with the MTS. Agriculture awarded 32 bachelor's degrees, one master of science and two master of philosophy degrees. The Institute of Peace, Leadership and Governance awarded the master's degree in Peace and Governance, MPG, to 21 students from its second intake.
"It's been a privilege to be part of the journey of these students," said Athanasius Mphuru, the university's deputy vice chancellor. "Many are consistent and high performers and with their knowledge and outlook, we believe that they will continue to make us proud wherever they go."
Both Pipa Nazare's mother and her bishop, Gaspar Domingos, were on hand to witness her graduation.
She's returning home in June to serve in the Angola West Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. But her thirst for knowledge has not been quenched. At Africa University, Nazare believes she uncovered her ministry and gifts in the area of pastoral care and counseling. She hopes to hone her skills with postgraduate training and put them to work caring for people in need in Angola.
*Andra Stevens is director of information and public affairs at Africa University.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.