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Board examines need for global education resources

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A UMNS photo by Vicki Brown

Rody Lucero (left) and Haydee Lopez, United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry members, look over meeting materials.
Oct. 26, 2006

By Vicki Brown*

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Both the need for global educational resources and projects under way to support development of global theological education were highlighted in two sessions at the fall board meeting of the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

A global conference call and online dialogue allowed members of the board's Division of Higher Education to talk with educators from Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Brazil about sharing resources between Latin America and Africa. And a meeting of the Global Theological Education Committee included a report on the need for far more training for pastors in Africa and the joint work being done by the Board of Higher Education and Ministry and the Board of Global Ministries to accomplish that.

Eduardo Namburete, a United Methodist and lecturer at the School of Communication and the Arts at Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo, Mozambique, spoke to the group from Geneva, Switzerland. Paulo Bessa, a professor and assistant for external projects and community issues at Methodist University in So Paulo, Brazil, and Andra Stevens, director of communications at Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe, also took part.

Namburete said many people in Mozambique wanted to attend college, but only a few places are available.

"In Mozambique we have been struggling for four or five years, with no tangible results," Namburete said. So educators in Mozambique are excited about a proposed partnership with the Methodist University in So Paulo, he said.

Distance learning

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Bishop J. Lawrence McCleskey
Bessa said the university has been working on online distance learning for some time, initially with its regular students.

"This semester we started a program of distance learning in which we have 600 students enrolled in different parts of the state," Bessa said. At five different centers at Methodist schools, the students can see the professor on a screen, type in questions and have the professor provide answers in real time, he said.

Kim Cape, superintendent of the McAllen District in the Southwest Texas Annual (regional) Conference, asked if Mozambique has sufficient electricity and infrastructure to support online learning. She said she was in the country after Sept. 11, 2001, and it was three days before anyone knew about the attacks on the World Trade Center.

Namburete said some of those problems have been overcome, especially regarding telephones and electrical lines.

Stevens said that was true of Africa University, too, where big improvements have been made in technology in the past three months. Africa University views distance education as "really helping realize the goal of being a pan-African university," she said.

A project to help deliver agricultural training at Angola University is a step in that direction, and discussion is under way about work in Rwanda, she said.

"We don't see ourselves being effective in Africa until we can deliver education where students are, and distance education technology is a critical piece of that," she said.

Bishop J. Lawrence McCleskey, president of the Division of Higher Education, said the opportunity to be engaged in conversation with people from around the globe was exciting.

"It was another effort among many to understand what it means to be a global church and to make the most of our educational resources globally. We're facilitating the conversation, but all the people in the conversation are sharing resources that are not in the United States," he said.

Stephanie Deckerd, the board's newest and youngest member, agreed.

"I thought that was amazing. I think it will help the world if you can converse and not stay isolated. Such conversations will lead us forward in the right direction," the 16-year-old said.

Board member Carolyn Briscoe added that the work being done shows that United Methodists in the United States have much to learn from those in Africa and Latin America.

Global education fund

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Ken Yamada
At a meeting of the Global Theological Education Committee, Ken Yamada, special assistant to the general secretary for Global Education and New Initiatives, reported on initial steps that were taken at meetings in Panama, Korea, and Japan toward making the Methodist Global Education Fund for Leadership Development a reality. The 2007 budget approved by the board's directors includes $300,000 in seed money for the fund.

At the same meeting, consultant Ellis Larsen said a great need exists for training pastors all over Africa. He noted that it had been many years since Angola had a functional seminary because of military conflict there. Many other countries lack adequate training facilities as well, Larsen said.

However, he said, pastors who had attended the course of study school at Kafakumba in Zambia were well-prepared.

"We need more schools like the one in Kafakumba, and we need more resources, especially in French," he said. Pastors study eight weeks a year for eight years at that school, started by John Enright, a United Methodist who grew up in a missionary family in Congo. He bought an abandoned factory lot and began planting banana trees. The sale of the bananas pays for the food, housing and education of some 60 local pastors per class who come to the school each year from Zambia, Zimbabwe, Congo and Senegal.

Larsen, who reported on the need in the areas of Africa where English, French, and Portuguese are spoken, said there are probably not more than a dozen schools for pastors in all of Africa. Robert Kohler, assistant general secretary in the board's Division of Ordained Ministry, said that compares to 13 United Methodist seminaries and 15 pastors' schools in the United States.

This summer, representatives from the Board of Higher Education and Ministry, the churchwide Board of Discipleship and the West African nation of Cte d'Ivoire served as a board of ordained ministry to examine graduates of the school at Kafakumba and found them well-prepared, Larsen said.

*Brown is an associate editor and writer in the Office of Interpretation at the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

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

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