Africa University 'prunes and grows' to stay afloat

Africa University prunes and grows to stay afloat
Africa University prunes and grows to stay afloat

United Methodist Africa University has managed to survive the economic challenges facing the country by cutting back, adapting to the changing fiscal environment and remaining in good standing with suppliers of goods and services.

“The principle that we use is, we prune and grow,” said Africa University vice chancellor Munashe Furusa. “We recognize there are areas we can do without for this year, and we cut down on those areas.
“As administrative staff, we also teach and thereby reduce labor costs. Anything that we can do to save money, we do,” Furusa said.

“Part of it is to understand what is core and to agree as a principle that we can forego certain things this year and then pick them up the following year.”

Furusa said, at times, the prices of goods were rising daily.

“To cope with these price hikes, we are buying in bulk. Sometimes, we buy from outside the country where possible and make sure we keep our stocks,” he said.

The university has a standby generator that provides power during electricity outages. “The cost of running the generator is very high. That’s one of our major cost drivers,” Furusa said.

Furusa said that sometimes the university consults the students on how to adapt to the economic challenges.

“We talk to our students and we increase prices where possible,” he said. “We have shared the governance, responsibility and accountability with the students.”

The university’s food services manager, Sarah Dube, said her department always stocks in advance and when inventory is down to one month’s supply, they restock. This has cushioned the department, which serves about 1,200 people during lunch and dinner, from the rising prices and unavailability of some foodstuffs.

In addition to offering standard meals, the Africa University dining hall caters to those on low-fat or low-sugar diets. The Africa University Farm provides most of the vegetables, pork and poultry.

Fiston Okito, a final-year divinity student from Congo and vice president of the Students Representative Council, said the increase in fees at the institution has mainly affected the Zimbabwean students, because international students pay their fees in foreign currency, which has not changed.

“In the dining hall, the food portions have decreased. In the past, students would complain and ask for more sadza (a Zimbabwean staple food made of corn), but instead of increasing, the portions have grown smaller,” he said.
Okito said power cuts affect students, especially when it’s cold. 

“There is no way to produce hot bath water and students sometimes come late for lectures,” he said. “We used to study during the night, but this is not always possible as the generator may switch off, leaving us in darkness.”

Furusa said the university keeps growing because of its Holy Spirit-guided vision, which is shared across Africa and the worldwide church.

“Our growth is also due to faith-filled commitment and action by the people called United Methodists. We also attribute our success to the steadfast investment by friends and partners, and the sacrifice and expertise of our staff and students,” he said.

by Eveline Chikwanah, communicator of the Zimbabwe East Conference.

One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the Africa University Fund transforms Africa by educating and empowering students from across the continent through Africa University, the first fully accredited, United Methodist-related educational institution on the continent. The Africa University Fund supports the general operating expenses of Africa University including faculty and staff salaries and vital infrastructure. Please encourage your leaders and congregations to support the Africa University Fund at 100 percent.