Abigail Mvududu (Zimbabwe East Annual Conference Communicator)
Africa University in Mutare was a hive of activity at the weekend when the university celebrated its 25th anniversary.
“Long Live Africa University”was the clarion call made by the bishop of the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area of the United Methodist Church, Bishop Eben Kanukayi Nhiwatiwa. The bishop told those gathered that the land on which Africa University is situated was church land which was donated by one of his predecessors, Bishop Abel Tendekayi Muzorewa.
Bishop Nhiwatiwa, the Administrative Assistant to the bishop Reverend Alan Masimba Gurupira, some District Superintendants and members of the clergy from the Episcopal area were among the esteemed guests who graced the celebrations. Also present were several bishops of the United Methodist Church from various conferences in the United States of America, the General Secretary of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry Rev Dr Kim Cape, resident Minister of State for Provincial Affairs Manicaland Province Hon Mandiitawepi Chimene, Ambassador Dr Machiwenyika Mapuranga, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development as well as Charge d Affaires Mrs Jenifer Savage who represented the Ambassador of the United States of America to Zimbabwe to name just a few.
The celebrations which began on Friday kicked off with an alumni symposium early in the day ending with an Alumni and friends dinner. At the main celebrations on Saturday, in his welcome address Professor Munashe Furusa who is the Vice Chancellor of Africa University said AU is where,” excellence is nurtured, pursued and celebrated” He told guests that AU was rated the second best university in Zimbabwe and is in the top 8 percent in Africa.
The main celebrations also saw the conferment of honorary degrees by the Chancellor, Bishop David K Yemba on Dr James L Waits and Mrs Tsitsi Masiyiwa. In her keynote address, the now Dr Masiyiwa paid tribute to AU for creating an opportunity of learning for young people. She said these young people leave home and after attending AU go back and change their communities. Dr Masiyiwa added that AU is,” celebrating real outcomes of having nurtured 7000 plus global leaders to date who include the recently elected Bishop of Southern Congo Episcopal Area, Bishop M. Muyombo”. Dr Masiyiwa is the Executive co-chairperson of Higherlife Foundation.
As AU is situated within the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area of the United Methodist Church, one might wonder what the Episcopal area has done to foster even closer ties with AU besides giving it the valuable land located in the scenic mountains of Manicaland. Bishop Nhiwatiwa said another of his predecessors; Bishop Christopher Jokomo started what is called AU Sunday where a special collection is done throughout the Episcopal area with the proceeds going to AU. Bishop Nhiwatiwa added that,” the Episcopal area will continue to raise funds through AU Sunday special collection and that the area has established a scholarship fund for two students”. He also told guests that Nyadire Teachers College a UMC institution will soon be offering degrees associated with AU.
On the sidelines of the main celebrations, the Administrative Assistant to the bishop Rev Alan Gurupira spoke about the strong ties between the Episcopal area and AU. Rev Gurupira said in addition to the land donated, AU Sunday collection and the recently established scholarship that Bishop Nhiwatiwa mentioned, the area has also built a house on campus to help provide accommodation for members of staff. He said at a fundraising dinner prior to the celebrations the area gave $2000 and,” the Episcopal area bought space on a banner situated at the university to the tune of $2500 all in an effort to further strengthen our already strong ties with AU”. Over the years the area has provided staff to AU. Some of them being Bishop Christopher Jokomo, Bishop Eben.K Nhiwatiwa, Dr Bishau and the former archivist Mr Machuma to name but a few. In the area of education and the ties established there, Rev Gurupira assigned Rev Munyaradzi Timire Education Secretary in the Zimbabwe East Annual Conference to talk about the synergies created there.
Rev Timire acknowledged V.C Prof Furusa’s role in initiating the partnerships which are being forged in the areas of education, ICT, agriculture and the medical field.”Feasibility studies have already been carried out, contents of the Memorandum of Understanding have also been agreed on and the MOU is due to be signed in April by Bishop Nhiwatiwa for UMC and Prof Furusa for AU” said Rev Timire.
Rev Timire said the MOU will see the cooperation benefiting students from both AU and UMC schools in ZEAC. “Starting in the 2017 second term ZEAC schools will benefit from the expertise of students from all over Africa from the different faculties of AU as the students will be attached to the schools” added Rev Timire. Also as a result of the cooperation AU will also have the opportunity to carry out research and experiments either in schools or UMC owned farms.
It was befitting that the celebrations ended on Sunday with a service in which the Episcopal area bishop, Bishop Nhiwatiwa was the liturgist. Throughout the celebrations the whole weekend the AU choir was at hand to offer musical interludes. The Hilltop MUMC Choir was also part of the closing service.