Orphaned at age 6, Claudine Migisha faced numerous challenges in her quest for education, including inadequate funding and the lack of parental encouragement.
Despite the difficulties she encountered, Migisha completed high school. She had no proficiency in English when she received a scholarship from the MasterCard Foundation and enrolled at Africa University in 2015.
But on June 8, the 26-year-old from the Goma area in the eastern part of Congo was among the 526 students from 22 African countries who make up the 2019 graduating class of the United Methodist university, which opened in 1992. She was awarded an honors degree in psychology during Africa University's 25th graduation ceremony.
"For the women in my village, education is seen as a hindrance," said Migisha. "I have friends who have purposely stopped their education for fear that they may scare away suitable partners as an educated woman is considered too outspoken, ignorant of her true place in society, argumentative and, ultimately, a challenge to her man."
Migisha aims to change that perception. Through her work, she plans to engage with both women and men to grow the understanding that an educated woman is an asset.
"I came to this university shy and withdrawn, but I was pulled out of my shell and transformed into a warrior woman," said Migisha. "I believe that if more young women are given the chance, they can reach far, and I am determined to see that happening because I have the vision to start my own organization that empowers women in the arts industry.
"The arts have an incredible power to heal the deepest of wounds, to spark conversation and through the freedom to be whatever one wants to be, it can give women a voice."
Migisha's fellow graduates share her passion for change. Most are first-generation college graduates, and 54.6 percent are women. The university has a current full-time enrollment of 1,800 students, a 97 percent graduation rate and more than 9,000 alumni as of June 2019. More than 90 percent of Africa University's graduates have remained on the continent of Africa.
Migisha is eager to carve her own path, inspired and equipped by her Africa University experience.
"When I think of Africa University, I see a powerful institution where young women and girls are given the room to thrive, where they develop a sense of self- worth because they realize that so many people care about them and are cheering them," said Migisha.
"(It is) something some women never experience in their lifetime. There is no amount of time I could be given to articulate what this university has done for me. The only way I know to show my gratitude is to take the vision and 'the dream' with me wherever I go."
Andra M. Stevens, Director, Communications, Africa University Development Office
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.