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Africa University grads determined to succeed

Graduates of United Methodist-related Africa University raise their caps in
celebration of their June 6 commencement in Mutare, Zimbabwe.
UMNS photos by Andra Stevens.

By Andra Stevens*
June 6, 2009 | MUTARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS)

Passion, prayer and hard work have paid off for Africa University student Tonderai Mutesva.

Of the 353 young people graduating this year, 310 received bachelor’s degrees and 43 were awarded master’s degrees.

An economics major, Mutesva is one of more than 350 young people awarded degrees June 6 during Africa University’s 15th Graduation Ceremony. Mutesva left the university with a first-class degree and awards that recognize his excellent academic performance and community service.

“I’m quite happy,” Mutesva said. “This is something I have been working toward for a long time, and now it’s happened! I guess it happened because of a lot of prayer and because I went into a field I was passionate about (economics).”

In addition to his studies, Mutesva was active in the Students in Free Enterprise club, which offers business development support and mentorship to individuals and groups.

“It was phenomenal helping other people see their potential and by doing so, I also realized the potential that was within me,” said Mutesva. “Now I am on the road to becoming a fully-fledged entrepreneur.”

For Mutesva, that means expanding a small business that he started with a colleague while at university. He is looking for premises for the business, which sells imported gadgets and computer components, in order to launch it as a retail enterprise.

Other graduates also expressed appreciation for their education.

“I have come to the realization that what makes us sweat is sweet,” said Fernando Cortez, an Angolan who studied in the business faculty. “We struggled for five years to get to this point and graduating will be the best achievement.”

A fellow Angolan graduating student, Milca Antonio, paid tribute to the United Methodist congregation that sponsored her education.

Tonderai Mutesva

“I was on a direct scholarship from day one and this has been a blessing to me,” said Antonio. “It is not everyone who pays fees for someone they do not even know. From this scholarship, I learned that we must have compassion and I have no doubt that in future, I will be able to help other people unconditionally.”

That positive outlook shared by many of Antonio’s fellow graduates is grounded in having survived difficult times. As they studied, Zimbabwe experienced an unemployment rate of more than 80 percent and the world’s highest inflation rate. Unemployment and inflation, coupled with an extremely tight money supply, left families unable to meet financial commitments.

In his final year, agriculture graduate Darlington Sabasi’s family struggled to pay his tuition fees as Zimbabwe’s economy worsened. The university had to step in with financial assistance to allow him to finish.

Now, Sabasi is preparing to leave Zimbabwe to pursue a master’s degree in agricultural economics in the United States.

“Every group of graduates is special but many of the students in this year’s graduating class faced and weathered some exceptional challenges,” said Fanuel Tagwira, the school’s vice chancellor. “Financing their education and remaining focused when things weren’t going well proved impossible for some. Despite their best efforts, sadly, they’re not graduating. For those who made it, the process of achieving in these circumstances has certainly made them stronger and more confident, personally and professionally.”

Noting that economic and social conditions in their various countries are likely to test their ideas, skills and resolve to succeed, Tagwira urged the graduates to “do good anyway”.

“Remember tough times are also times of great opportunity,” Tagwira said. “It all depends on your mindset.”

The vice chancellor’s message of encouragement to the graduates was echoed in the commencement address given by Wilberforce Kisamba-Mugerwa, a former agriculture minister and chairman of Uganda’s National Planning Authority.

“Africa is the current frontier,” said Mugerwa. “It is the land of opportunity. (You) should join in the fortune hunting and not leave it to others. If the development of a country or a continent is left to others, they eventually take it over.”

Darlington Sabasi

Of the 353 young people graduating this year, 310 were awarded bachelor’s degrees and 43 were awarded master’s degrees. Thirteen African countries were represented in the graduating class—Angola, Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, the Sudan, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The university’s youngest teaching unit, the Faculty of Health Sciences, celebrated its first group of graduates from the four-year program in Health Services Management. A member of the pioneer class, Tendai Paskwababira, was one of three graduates to receive first class degree certificates from the university. (The third recipient was Tatenda Machiri from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.)

This year’s graduating class brings the number of Africa university alumni to just under 3,000. Africa University graduates are at work as agriculturalists, pastors, educators and business, health and other professionals in communities across sub-Saharan Africa.

Founded by the United Methodist Church worldwide in 1992, Africa University was the first private university to open in Zimbabwe. It has an annual full-time student population of 1,200 and offers degrees in six faculties—Agriculture and Natural Resources, Education, Health Sciences, the Humanities and Social Sciences, Management and Administration and Theology; and in the Institute of Peace, Leadership & Governance.

*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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