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Africa University awards 282 degrees at graduation

The newest graduates of United Methodist-related Africa University celebrate at the commencement ceremony June 9 in Zimbabwe. UMNS photos by Andra Stevens.

By Andra Stevens*
June 19, 2007 | MUTARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS)

The Board of Global Ministries' Caroline Njuki delivers the commencement address.

Africa University celebrated its 13th graduating class by awarding 282 degrees to students from 15 African countries and seeing its first recipients from two new master's degree programs.

The Class of 2007 of the United Methodist-related school also featured its largest-ever group of recipients for first-class degrees, which are awarded to students with a cumulative grade point average of between 3.65 and 4.0.

The private, pan-African school held its commencement ceremonies on June 9.

The class was comprised of 230 undergraduate and 52 graduate students and featured two pioneer classes—recipients of the master’s degree in public sector management and the master’s degree in public health.

The first-class degree recipients were spread across four faculties or disciplines: Education (4), Humanities and Social Sciences (4), Agriculture and Natural Resources (2) and Management and Administration (1).

"This achievement was by God’s grace," said Unekuojo Haruna, a Nigerian psychology major and the only non-Zimbabwean among the first-class degree recipients.

"This achievement was by God’s grace," says Unekuojo Haruna, a psychology major and recipient of the ZIMRE Prize for the best overall graduating student.

Haruna maintained her grades and remained active in student government and community life after her father died last September in the crash of a Nigerian military aircraft. She was awarded the university’s most prestigious award, the ZIMRE Prize for the Best Overall Graduating Student.

"I thank God and I thank my family, friends and lecturers for their support," said Haruna.

Celebrating diversity

Gareth Horsfield also received a first-class degree and was among the top graduating students in the Faculty of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

"I’m shocked and happy at the same time," said Horsfield, who also was awarded prizes for Best Graduating Student in Animal Science and Best Overall Graduating Student in his discipline.

"Africa University has just been amazing," he said. "I remember being worried about coming here on the first day because I thought I would stick out quite a bit. It (race) has never been an issue, and I’ve never been made to feel as if I’m any different from any other student on campus."

In fact, campus diversity and cultural interaction are highlights cited by many of the new graduates. Neusa Joaquim spent four years on campus, first learning English and then pursuing a bachelor’s degree in theology. She says the "give and take" involved in living with so many cultures, backgrounds and personalities has had a positive impact on her.

"Africa University is a place where you find everything and everyone, culturally speaking," said Joaquim. "I learned a lot, grew personally and came out more open-minded and mature."

Joaquim is returning to her country of Angola after graduation. Throughout her studies, she was supported by the congregation at Belem United Methodist Church in Luanda, and she’s excited about returning there to serve.

Giving back

Athanasius Mphuru awards Gareth Horsfield the prize for best overall graduating student in the Faculty of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

In her commencement address, Caroline Njuki urged the graduates to give back to society.

"I expect that most of you are here because someone took you by the hand and started you on the journey to this hour," said Njuki, a staff member of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries in New York. "Therefore, you are morally obliged to do the same for another. And the more money and the more energy and the more influence you have or accumulate, the more you must do."

Njuki urged the graduates to set an example for honesty and openness regardless of the circumstances.

"Be honest even if you find yourselves trapped in a corrupt economic environment," she said. "You have learned at this school and need always to remember that it is wrong to steal, lie or cheat, and to pretend that you are something other than what you are."

As she ended her address, Njuki appealed to the graduates to remain engaged with their communities and continent and to "love Africa with passion."

"This continent of ours with its great diversity, its wealth of resources, and its potential, is our Mother Earth. Claim it! Embrace it! Care for its people, protect its environment, nurture its cultures and represent it with pride. You are, after all, its sons and daughters. Walk straight and tall proclaiming to the world, 'I am proud to be an African and I am a graduate of Africa University.'"

The members of the 2007 graduating class increased Africa University’s alumni to more than 2,600 in 14 years of operation. The first private university to open in Zimbabwe, Africa University opened in 1992 with 40 students from six African countries. Its current annual enrollment is 1,300. The institution offers degrees in agriculture, business and public administration, education, health sciences, the humanities and social sciences, peace and governance, and theology.

*Stevens is director of information and public affairs at Africa University.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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