AU Amends Plans, Delays Start of Classes

Females student, masked.

On January 5th, Zimbabwe instituted a new 30-day country-wide lockdown. The country's borders are closed to all but returning residents and special travelers such as diplomats.

The ongoing impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic is being felt at AU. In 2020, income from student fees dropped considerably while new costs arose for PPE, staff training, online learning, and disease surveillance, etc. Due to the shutdown of in-person activities, income-drivers such as student housing and food services are yielding very little.

Unemployment grew under lockdown and has not recovered, leaving families unable to meet their tuition fee obligations to AU. Sub-Saharan Africa is anticipating that most economies will contract by as much as 3.5 percent in 2021, leading to increased food insecurity and the prospect of more families falling below the poverty line. All of which makes the fact of uninterrupted teaching, learning, research and leadership formation at Africa University truly miraculous.

Africa University has amended its plans for opening this month. Before the new shutdown order, administration had been preparing to implement a blended learning model in which students could opt for either in-person or online teaching/learning on a week-by-week basis. For now, the students, faculty and staff are pressing forward with online-only academic activities starting on January 25th. Depending on how the public health situation evolves, online-only teaching, learning and student assessment may be the reality until the semester ends in June 2021.

The steadfast investment in the AUF apportionment by United Methodist congregations and second-mile gifts to the Africa University Endowment Fund—even in this most unprecedented and difficult period—are seeing Africa University through! Access to funding through the Africa University Fund assures that Africa University’s day-to-day operational needs are consistently met.

In the face of COVID-19-related and other challenges, AU trained and equipped faculty and staff to lead in the delivery of online learning and remain effective while working remotely. Students who were in danger of dropping out received emergency funding. Shortfalls in the university’s operating budget were addressed. AU continues to do more than cope—the university is innovating and persevering, thanks to the foresight and commitment of United Methodists. In supporting the AU Endowment, United Methodist and others are playing a pivotal role in the survival and impact of Africa University’s ministry with funding for scholarships, professorships, learning resources and even gaps in income during challenging times!