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Black colleges seek stronger partnership with African education

10/3/2002 News media contact: Linda Green · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn

By Andra Stevens*

MUTARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS) - Presidents of the historically black United Methodist colleges and Africa University are seeking opportunities for collaboration, as well as a stronger partnership between African and American schools.

In November, the denomination's Council of Presidents of the Black College Fund will hold its regular fall meeting at Africa University. Eleven presidents, seven current and four emeriti, will meet in Mutare and participate in celebrations marking Africa University's 10th anniversary.

The meeting will be the group's first on the continent, but the council's connection with the university is a longstanding one.

"Members of the Council of Presidents have been with us from day one," said Rukudzo Murapa, vice chancellor of Africa University. "As mentors and technical advisers, they've helped to set up various faculties and administrative units. With their assistance and advice, we've put in place world-class academic programs, structures and policies."

Council members have served on Africa University's board of directors since its inception. Samuel Dubois Cook, president emeritus of Dillard University in New Orleans, was a member of the university's site selection committee. Shirley A.R. Lewis, president of Paine College in Augusta, Ga., provided the model for the faculty of education, which enrolled its first students in 1996. Thomas Cole, president emeritus of Clark Atlanta University, is the current chairman of the board's academic affairs committee.

"Clearly, this meeting is an historic event, one which celebrates achievement, mission and commitment," Lewis said. "As a member of the Council of Presidents, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to interact with our counterparts at Africa University, and to share and build upon our experiences, hopes and dreams. I am thankful for our church's continued commitment to mission, which has spearheaded the development and sustenance of these very important institutions."

Africa University opened in March 1992 as the first private, international university in Zimbabwe. The pioneer group of 40 students came from a dozen African countries to pursue bachelor's degrees in agriculture and natural resources and theology.

The school is a United Methodist-related project supported by church members from around the world.

As part of the 10th anniversary celebration, the presidents and Africa University have developed a symposium on the theme, "African Higher Education in the New Millennium: Challenges and Prospects." The one-day symposium, scheduled for Nov. 15, will bring African and American scholars together to share experiences from the development of the historically black colleges and the only United Methodist-related university in Africa.

The symposium features a keynote address by African scholar Eldred Durosimi Jones, emeritus professor from the University of Sierra Leone, followed by a panel presentation by Lewis, Walter Broadnax of Clark Atlanta University and Johnetta B. Cole of Bennett College in Greensboro, N.C., among others. Symposium participants will focus on such topics as the role of the church in African higher education; private sector participation in higher education; building partnerships between historically black colleges and universities and African higher education institutions; and the role of women in higher education.

"Our institutions and communities confront very similar challenges as we develop. We have expertise and success strategies to share, and our faculty and students have much to benefit from interacting with each other," Murapa said.

This year, Africa University has a total enrollment of more than 1,000 students in undergraduate and graduate programs in five faculties or departments: agriculture and natural resources, education, humanities and social sciences, management and administration, and theology. The university is debt-free and boasts 880 alumni working in communities across Africa.

The school will celebrate its 10th anniversary with a series of events scheduled for Nov. 15-17. Besides the symposium, activities will include the African Arts and Cultural Gala Nov. 15. The guest of honor will be Graça Machel, former minister of education of Mozambique and chairwoman of the National Organization of Children of Mozambique, an organization that places orphans in village homes. She has worked on efforts to rehabilitate children, empower Mozambican women, and promote worldwide literacy.

Other activities at the university will include building dedications and naming ceremonies Nov. 16 and a worldwide worship service Nov. 17.

For more on the celebration, visit www.umc.org and scroll down to Africa University: Celebrating Ten Years.
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*Stevens is coordinator for the Africa University 10th anniversary celebration.


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