Africa University graduates 843 students in largest class ever

In the largest graduation ceremony since its inception, Africa University celebrated 843 students during the commencement exercises at its campus in Old Mutare, Zimbabwe, June 11.

As the famous Africa University Choir sang “The dream is alive,” graduating students, representing 26 African countries, received their certificates, diplomas and degrees. This was the 22nd graduation ceremony for this United Methodist-related university in its 24 years of existence.

Many of the students in the graduating class of 2016 were the first in their families to receive a college education and scholarships made it possible. Priscah Fisho, a young woman from Zimbabwe who trained as a science teacher, was among the graduates.

In a letter of thanks at graduation, Fisho said that she now has hope and a good foundation for life.

“I was so impressed by the diversity and Christian values at AU that I have decided to commit my next two years in mission,” Fisho wrote. Through service as a Global Mission Fellow with the General Board of Global Ministries, Fisho hopes to make a difference in the lives of others.

From the podium, Vice-Chancellor, Professor Munashe Furusa, himself the first in his family to graduate from college, congratulated the students, noting that 1.9 billion Africans are under the age of 19. The Pan-African school is poised to articulate and address today’s challenges by “providing contextually appropriate and sustainable solutions to Africa’s problems.”

In his second year as the president and chief executive officer of AU, Furusa is charting a new direction for the school, focusing on expanded efforts in technology that includes distance learning, a spirit of entrepreneurship, and creating a quality of life for students – all designed to make Africa University “a school of choice.”

The keynote speaker at the graduation was Shingai Mutasa, founder of the investment company Masawara Plc., and known as a businessman who encourages Africans to do business and invest in Africa.

Mutasa’s great-great grandfather was the king who gave the land Africa University now sits on to United Methodist missionary Bishop Joseph Hartzell in 1897.

From his forefather, Mutasa said, he learned the importance of choices. “We all have choices. We make them consciously or subconsciously,” he said. “Life is about choices. Do not ever allow yourself to give up that right you have. You must exercise your choice.”

Men and women throughout history who have made a difference, from our great-great grandfathers to Martin Luther King Jr. and Muhammed Ali, have chosen wisely and been driven by a vision, Mutasa told the graduates. “It’s important to know that the capacity to make a difference is within us.”

He encouraged them to live with passion and build on their strengths.

Africa University is unique, said Bishop Marcus Matthews, adding that it’s one of the best things in The United Methodist Church whose members support the school through the payment of apportionments. Matthews is the interim chairperson of Africa University’s board of directors.

Its students, he said, come from across the continent and, during their time together, form lasting relationships that can serve as a network in their future work as leaders in a variety of fields. “Imagine in the near future,” said Matthews, “if there were a potential conflict and the two leaders could call upon their time together at Africa University.”

“The times we are living in are desperate and urgent,” Furusa said. “Africa University graduates will be passionate about putting African nations on their feet again so that they can march with other nations with dignity and grace. …. God is faithful to what he has begun in this place.”

*Adapted from an article by Rev. Maidstone Mulenga, the director of Connectional Ministries and Assistant to the Bishop in the Baltimore-Washington Conference.