Africa University leader reflects on first year on the job
Vice Chancellor Munashe Furusa has been at the helm of Africa University affairs for 14 months.
Taking the helm of an institution with a proud heritage but also a number of challenges, Furusa promised to “prune and grow” at the same time, shifting resources to promote that growth. Africa University has an enrollment of about 1,500 students.
Furusa recently spoke to Tafadzwa Mudambanuki and Kathy L. Gilbert about the university’s challenges, hopes, plans and vision. These are the highlights of the interview.
After a year on the ground, what do you consider the major needs of Africa University?
Our focus as a university is to improve the quality of student life. We are focusing on enhancing and increasing our solid infrastructure — particularly accommodations and the sports facilities. We have just completed refurbishing courts for tennis, basketball, volleyball, netball and basketball. We will be probably the first university in Zimbabwe that will have a sports complex. In addition, we have identified our needs in terms of increasing our halls of residence and we are focusing on that. We have halls of residence that accommodate about 900 students.
What new programs are you proposing? Are any changes planned for awarding scholarships?
We have reconstituted the scholarship and financial aid committee. Students are required to apply for scholarships and this committee considers their applications. We are emphasizing transparency and responsibility for the resources that we receive from donors and partners. We have criteria that include merits and need.
Africa University is structured in such a way that it benefits every part of the African continent that wants to participate. I think this is a model that allows us to maintain our diversity and our pan-African nature.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
United Methodist churches can support the university through the Africa University Fund.
Scholarships for Africa University students are supported by Advance #3021028through the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.
Advance #3020619 assists needy students enrolled at Africa University by providing for their basic needs.
What have you done to help Africa University in terms of forging partnerships that will sustain your programs?
As vice chancellor, I work very closely with our development office to cultivate partners, to nurture those we already have. We are developing a new strategic plan that will involve business and church leaders in helping us to share that strategic plan and include all our stakeholders as we develop a new strategic plan. We have already scheduled meetings where we will solicit various input from business, church leaders and the community members. It is a process that makes people develop ownership of the university and want to be partners with us.
Have budgetary issues been resolved?
Budgets are both living entities and an ongoing process. What I can tell you is that we are prudent stewards of all the resources that we receive…. We have committees that look at that in a very transparent manner. We are very accountable and responsible in the way that we use our resources. For our budget, we have internal auditors that look at every aspect and they will bring outside professional auditors as well.
What is the most positive thing you’ve discovered since you went to AU?
Africa University is a great university with great students, great staff and great partners who are committed to walk this journey with us. It is a vibrant space for intellectual and community engagement.
Has anything surprised you?
Every day I am surprised by the potential of the university to really transform the continent and the world. Just one example is that we have students who come to the university without speaking a single word of English. In about two semesters, they will be able to lead the church service in English. I am also excited to find out that our students take their role of leadership in ministry very seriously. They are able to volunteer to build churches, build schools and help the less fortunate.
Can you tell us what is going on with the need for faculty with Ph.D.s in order to maintain Zimbabwean accreditation?
The Zimbabwe Council on Education requires that each university have 60 percent of faculty with Ph.Ds. and 40 percent with master’s degrees. We have committed ourselves to hiring staff with Ph.Ds. and are encouraging those who are already registered in Ph.D. programs to complete their studies. Compared with other universities on the continent of Africa, Africa University is doing better and has a well-developed plan to produce Ph.D.s, and we have 15 faculty members who are at various stages of completing their Ph.D. programs.
What is the status of your effort in staffing, particularly non-faculty? We understand that Zimbabwe has changed employment laws. Do you expect layoffs?
The Africa University Board has approved a professional human resources audit; they have already started the work…. The issue of the labor laws does not concern us at Africa University. We have always adhered to the laws of the land. The laws in question are simply laws changing in order to make sure the law strikes a balance between the needs of the employer and the needs of the employees.
Now that you have been there for 14 months, what do you want to change?
I have learned in life you don’t carry visions with you. You go to a place, learn the culture, meet the people, listen to their voices, look people in the eyes, and out of the knowledge and spirit of the place you carve out a vision. A vision is a collective thing. … We want to be a premier university on the continent. In addition, we have already started putting the pieces together that will make it a premier university on the continent and in the world.
Do you think Africa University draws people of the highest quality?
It’s already doing that because we have judges, lawyers and ministers of government who come to enhance their studies. These are leaders in their own right. They come to Africa University and study master’s programs in intellectual property and governance. And I know there is enthusiasm out there among our bishops, in the United Methodist leaders and people…. Even the people who sit in the pews are galvanized. This is the university that has unified our church, and we find common purpose, a common mission in this church, in this university.
Anything you want to share with friends of Africa University?
I want to thank our partners, our donors, The United Methodist Church for their labor of love with this university. I just want to let people know that their investment of prayers and gifts is yielding great results. We are transforming Africa and investing in Africa's future one life at a time and one community at a time.
We have partners who have allowed us to cultivate the African donor base. Right now, we are receiving a lot of support from across Africa, from individuals and organizations on the continent. We have over 6,200 alumni in various positions of leadership throughout the continent, some of them who are holding very high positions in the World Bank and in the church.
Therefore, my next project is to travel across Africa, introduce myself to our alumni and share with them the university’s vision and priorities, and it will cultivate them to participate in the re-imagining of this university.
* Tafadzwa W. Mudambanuki is central conference content coordinator for United Methodist Communications. Kathy L. Gilbert is a multimedia reporter for United Methodist News Service, a ministry of United Methodist Communications. Contact them at (615)742-5470 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.