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Africa University graduates 1st health science class, gives 400 degrees

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Andra Stevens

More than 400 students graduate from Africa University on June 10.
June 14, 2006

By Andra Stevens*

MUTARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS) — The first class in Africa University’s school of health sciences was among those graduating at the school’s 2006 ceremonies.

The Faculty of Health Sciences opened in 2004 with a pioneer group of six women and two men working for a post-basic bachelor of science degree in nursing. The school presented its first group of graduates this year, and Tsitsi Murapa, the sister-in-charge of the University Health Clinic, was among them.

“You’re sometimes fearful when you’re among the first to do something,” Murapa said. “Now that I’ve come to the end, I have a new motto, and I’m ready to share all that I’ve learned with the university community. The dream of high-quality health care is alive.”

The health science graduates were among the more than 400 receiving degrees at Africa University’s 12th ceremony June 10. Eleven African countries — Angola, Botswana, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe — were represented in the 2006 graduating class.

The drive to succeed and contribute to development in their various countries was evident among the graduates.

Trésor and Héritier Nday are twin brothers from the Democratic Republic of Congo who studied agriculture. Trésor specialized in agribusiness and Héritier in crop production. Upon returning to their home country, the brothers plan to go into commercial farming together.

“We did attachments on farms as part of our program at Africa University, and this really helped us to put theory into practice. … It was a very beneficial and meaningful part of our education,” said Trésor Nday.

“Although the DRC has primarily been a mining country up to now, it has great potential for agriculture. … AU has equipped us with the knowledge and skills to realize our dreams. No subsistence farming for us; we’re thinking big,” he said.

‘I have a joy’

Many of the graduates described a sense of accomplishment and joy upon reaching this milestone.

“I’m glad that I did not give up and go back home,” said Neide Epalanga. “I’m now richer in terms of knowledge, and I have a definite advantage over other Angolans who trained in Portuguese.”

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Andra Stevens

Neide Epalanga graduates with a bachelor of science degree in economics.
Twenty-five-year-old Epalanga, from Luanda, Angola, now has a bachelor of science degree in economics from the Faculty of Management & Administration. Looking back at her four years in the faculty, she gave much of the credit for her success to her lecturers.

“My first year here was terrible,” she said. “I couldn’t communicate in English. I wanted to go back home because of frustration, but our lecturer, Dr. (William) Humbane, was very good, and he encouraged us and gave us psychological support. … Later on, (Chris) Njoroge and (Andrew) Gumbo believed in us and spurred us on. Without all that support and encouragement, I would not have graduated.”

Epalanga’s sentiments were echoed by 39-year-old Binwell Mtoso of Malawi. For Mtoso, who trained in the Faculty of Agriculture & Natural Resources and majored in animal science, staying enrolled was a constant struggle. He had difficulties paying his fees but relied on his skills as an amateur photographer to raise extra money. His efforts earned him a degree and two prizes for outstanding performance in the area of animal production.

“I have a joy in me because, though I struggled financially, I have made it,” Mtoso said. “I feel well-prepared and confident. … It won’t be long before I’m an employer because that’s what I’ve been trained to become.”

A challenge for graduates

All six faculties within the university, as well as its Institute of Peace, Leadership and Governance, presented candidates for graduation.

In his brief report on the state of the university, Rukudzo Murapa, university vice chancellor, spoke of the evolving partnerships that are extending the institution’s service and impact on the continent.

Investment in information technology is revolutionizing teaching, research and community service, he said. However, enrollment growth is hampered by a shortage of on-campus housing and teaching facilities.

The graduation ceremony featured Grace Muradzikwa, chief executive officer of NicozDiamond Insurance Limited, one of Zimbabwe’s leading short-term insurers. She is secretary to the Africa University Board of Directors and was recently named the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce Businesswoman of the Year.

She challenged the graduates to “consciously resist being prisoners to the environment” in which they find themselves. She also urged them to remain present and involved in their countries’ development and to resist the pull of more developed nations.

Muradzikwa stressed that principles, performance and servant leadership are the keys to success. “Leadership today is about the strength ... to support those you lead and to make them more valuable for tomorrow’s world,” she said.

In her message, she told the graduates about the intangibles of the education they received from Africa University, highlighting “ethics and values, faith, hopefulness and an outward-looking zest that continually flies in the face of gloomy predictions about Zimbabwe … and Africa as a whole.” She called the intangible the foundation that will help the graduates maintain the highest standards of morality and professional discipline and make a difference in their various nations.

What they’ll miss

As the graduates prepared to return to their homes around Zimbabwe and across the continent, they highlighted the university’s spiritual life activities, the mix of cultures and the many friends they made as the aspects of campus life that they will miss.

“What stands out for me when I look back at my four years is the choir,” said Chiedza Murombedzi, 22, who just received a bachelor of science degree in education. “It is through the choir that I was able to go places, meet lots of different people and minister through song.”

Murombedzi hopes to combine her teaching training with strong computer skills and an aptitude for commercial subjects, such as accounting, to specialize in business education as her career develops. She said she and her fellow graduates have much for which to be grateful.

“The spirit of the people behind the scenes in developing this institution, the board of directors and the volunteers who come from the USA and elsewhere to help, they show so much love and dedication to the university. … It is priceless,” Murombedzi said. “As graduates, we need to do our part to show that we appreciate this support. It has made our education at Africa University possible, and without it the university would not be here.”

This year’s graduates bring the number of Africa University alumni to more than 2,100. Africa University graduates are at work as teachers, agriculturalists, pastors, business professionals and peace-builders in communities across the continent.

*Stevens is director of information at Africa University.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or

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