|Distance learning center launched in Mozambique|
Supporters dedicate a new satellite campus of Africa
University at the offices of the United Methodist Mozambique Annual
Conference in Maputo.
UMNS photos by John Gordon.
By Linda Green*
April 14, 2008 | MAPUTO, Mozambique (UMNS)
Ken Yamada speaks during the dedication ceremony as Mozambique Bishop Joao Somane Machado listens.
A newly launched distance learning center will help train future
leaders of The United Methodist Church and connect its Mozambique Annual
Conference to the rest of the world.
After three years of planning, the Africa Training and Learning
Center was dedicated March 31 as a satellite campus of Africa
University, a United Methodist-related school in Zimbabwe. The center is
housed in the church's Mozambique conference offices in Maputo.
"This day is very significant as it marks a stage in the growth of
the university," said Fanuel Tagwira, the university's interim vice
Rolling out educational programs through the distance learning center
is "a major departure to the traditional ways we have been delivering
higher education in the last 16 years of our existence," Tagwira said.
"The development in information and communication technology has
provided opportunities to advance learning to more people than ever
The United Methodist Church in Mozambique has 160,000 members in more
than 170 congregations. "The center is something which comes to fulfill
a dream which I had together with others when starting Africa
University," said Mozambique Bishop Joao Somane Machado as he opened the
With an illiteracy rate of nearly 60 percent in Mozambique, the
impact of the center as an empowerment tool will help "individuals be
what they are called to be," Machado said.
The center is a collaborative effort of Africa University; the
Methodist University of São Paulo, Brazil; United Methodist
Communications; and the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and
Ministry. Funding comes from the Methodist Global Education Fund for
Beamed via satellite
The classroom has 20 new computers, with plans to expand in the
future. Classes from Africa University will be beamed to the Maputo site
via VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal), a two-way satellite ground
station with a dish antenna.
"The early missionaries embarked on the brick-and-mortar type of
education, and The United Methodist Church is now embarking on a mission
which goes along with the 21st century way of communication," said
Martin Dwomoh-Tweneboah, a consultant to Africa University's Internet
technology department. "I think (the center) is a project which will
make the church activities unique in terms of spreading the Gospel of
The center will enable Africa University to connect with potential
students in Mozambique who are now without access to traditional
learning. It also will offer affordable higher education to people in
diverse geographical locations and environments.
Aidilio Alfeu uses a new computer at the Africa Training and Learning Center.
Church and university leaders hope the Training and Learning Center
can be duplicated in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo and other
"This center comes at the right time when demand for higher education
is increasing," said Venture Mufume of the Africa University Alumni
Association in Mozambique. "We welcome this initiative. Education is an
essential human right and it is not for the privileged few."
Since Mozambique’s native language is Portuguese, curriculum was
developed at the Methodist University in São Paulo. Enrollment will
begin with about 40 students divided into morning and evening sessions,
and students will learn in their native language. In addition to an
online executive MBA program and a course in English as a second
language, classes will be offered in theological education and public
health. Future classes will focus on public administration, accounting,
agriculture and nursing.
Traditional classroom learning is gradually giving way to online
learning, Dwomoh-Tweneboah said. "Online learning is becoming a sort of a
supplement to the traditional classroom learning to offer those
students who don’t have the opportunity to attend regular classes during
the day to take classes at their own leisure and at their own pace," he
The center will help students who came from Africa University
continue their studies because economics makes participating in
post-graduate programs in Mozambique a challenge, according to Delfina
Monteiro, a 2006 theology graduate of Africa University and a member of
the financial staff of the Mozambique Annual Conference.
Access to education is a key component to freeing people from poverty
and disease and bringing about change in the lives of the people in
Africa, according to Ken Yamada, a Higher Education and Ministry staff
member. He called the center a "vital investment" to help Africa
University fulfill its mandate of serving people in all countries of
The Liberdade United Methodist Church choir sings at the dedication.
Sandra Nobre, representing Mozambique’s Ministry of Labor, said the
center of professional training has the potential to help alleviate
poverty and illiteracy in that country.
Machado agreed that the center will be a major resource to educate
church members and the citizens of Mozambique and assist with the fight
against hunger, poverty and disease.
He applauded the university's desire to duplicate the distance
learning model in other parts of Africa and allow students to learn in
their native languages. When a non-English speaking student enrolls at
Africa University, for example, the student must first spend a year
learning that language. "But if they learn their lessons in Portuguese,
this will give them also the confidence of working hard, of making such
effort because they know very well the language," he said.
The distance learning center also extends Christian communication,
according to the Rev. Tafadzwa Mudambanuki, a staff member of United
"It is a way of reaching out to people who have been marginalized for so long," Mudambanuki said.
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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