News Archives

Africa University perseveres in Zimbabwe's hard times

9/25/2003 News media contact: Linda Green · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn

By Pamela Crosby*

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - United Methodist-related Africa University has managed to maintain its health and vitality despite the economic and social turmoil in its host country, Zimbabwe, school officials say.

"In spite of the fact that Zimbabwe is experiencing crippling inflation and unbelievable shortages of food and fuel and other things, the superb budget management of our bursar, vice chancellor, general secretaries and many others have made it possible to finish each of the last three fiscal years with no deficit," said Aubrey K. Lucas, president emeritus of the University of Southern Mississippi and treasurer for the Africa University Board of Directors.

While acknowledging the school's resilience, Africa University's development committee is also confronting the need for increasing support from the denomination.

Nancy M. Carruth, a long-time champion of higher education, asked the group at its September meeting to encourage all delegates to the 2004 General Conference to continue support for Africa University. "Let them know that when the Africa University petition comes to the floor, saying 'yes' is a vote for the students of Africa University and future leadership on the African continent."

Committee members strategized about helping United Methodists understand that the denomination's original commitment of $20 million to the university for the quadrennium - $10 million toward the apportionment and $10 million toward the World Service Special endowment - has never been met. Local churches must give equally to both the apportionment and the endowment in order for the university to meet its day-to-day and operational needs, the committee said.

Africa University's Vice Chancellor Rukudzo Murapa thanked the school's Legacy Society - whose members invest in the school through planned giving - as well as the development committee for their commitment to the university.

Bishop Ernest S. Lyght of the church's New York Area - the newest member to the board of directors and the development committee - expressed excitement about the committee's work. "When you hear about the wars, when you hear about the rumors of wars, when you hear about what is going on in Zimbabwe and other places, remember that God is on the throne. … The morning is coming. It is a new day."

During the development committee's biannual meeting, staff executive James Salley told members that Africa University's ability to "survive within an unfriendly economic and political environment reinforces our belief that the university is a gift from God." Salley is Africa University's associate vice chancellor for institutional advancement.

The university began classes Aug. 18 with a projected enrollment of 1,200 students representing 21 African countries. "In spite of the scarcity of certain commodities in the country," Salley said, "the dining hall did not miss a meal."

Committee members celebrated a $1.6 million in-kind gift through a collaboration with the Christian Alliance for Humanitarian Aid, which is partnering with Africa University and others to ship medical supplies, seeds, food concentrates and items to Zimbabwe.

In other business, the committee:
· Learned that the Christian Alliance for Humanitarian Aid has stored and prepared for shipment 100,000 HIV/AIDS test kits for Africa University. Prescription medicines, vitamins, and mineral products also have been donated.
· Highlighted the results of the Usahwira (you-suh-we-rah) project, which helps local churches begin a relationship with the university in a variety of ways.
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*Crosby is a staff member of the Office of Interpretation of the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

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