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Student diversity increases at Africa University

Alfred Zigbou (left) from Liberia and Konte Noumenoue from Benin are post-graduate students at Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe. The United Methodist-related school has 1,300 students from 26 African countries.
A UMNS Web-only photo by Sharai Nondo.

By Andra Stevens*
Sept. 26, 2007 | MUTARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS)  

The more than 425 freshman who began classes at Africa University in August represent the second largest intake in the university's 15-year history.

In addition, the United Methodist-related university offered admission to undergraduate and graduate programs to more than 650 young people and increased its number of international students by 4 percent.

The university offers its 1,300 students programs in agriculture, business, education, health sciences, the humanities and social sciences, peace, leadership and governance, and theology.

Analdina Miguel, 18, from Angola's capital city, Luanda, is a freshman in the Faculty of Management and Administration.

"I heard about Africa University from a friend, and as soon as I arrived here, I realized at first glance that the infrastructure and environment were superior to other universities back home," Miguel said.

She wants to learn English, which she described as "an asset you can take anywhere in the world," and gain the professional skills that will enable her to help grow her family's business.

"I expect to maximize all the resources that will be availed to me and get the best out of Africa University," said Alfred Zigbou, a Liberian social worker who is being sponsored by the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.

Zigbou has enrolled in the master's degree program in the university's Institute of Peace, Leadership and Governance for training that he hopes will help him contribute to improving socioeconomic policies and development efforts in Liberia.

"My passion is for serving people," he explained. "I want to see a more equitable distribution of wealth in communities back home and to help foster and sustain peace in my country."

More countries represented

Students like Zigbou and others from West and Central Africa have made this year's intake the most geographically diverse in the university's history. Twenty-six African countries are represented among the student body, giving the institution its highest percentage of international students to date.

The freshman class includes two young women from the Central African Republic and a young woman from The Gambia. These three students are the first from their countries to enroll at Africa University.

An evolving partnership with the African Capacity Building Foundation has also contributed to increased diversity in the student population. The three-year, $12 million-initiative involves offering a master's degree program in public sector management to senior civil servants from across East and Southern Africa. It is aimed at improving the capacity of African governments to manage their economies, social infrastructure and state enterprises.

In August, the university welcomed the second group of foundation-funded students, numbering 29 from eight African countries — Botswana, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

"Botswana, Mozambique and Tanzania have sent participants for the first time this year and from the pioneer group of countries, we have new participants, all of which confirms confidence in the program, the host institution and the host country," said Hardson Kwandayi, the program's coordinator.

Learning about others

Mekonnen Azele Temechen, a personnel administrator in Ethiopia's foreign ministry, said "being here will be a chance to share experiences with other African brothers and sisters, and will also be an opportunity to see how other public sectors are being managed in Africa."

Already, Mario Antonio, a freshman studying for a degree in psychology in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, has made friends who are enriching his learning experience.

"I'm meeting people from so many countries on the campus," he said, "and it's enabling me to learn more about other people, expand my views about how other people live and have an appreciation of their backgrounds."

*Stevens is director of Africa University's Office of Information and Public Affairs.

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

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