6 new Africa U. grads aided by Eastern PA scholarships

526 march in university’s 25th graduating class

Paulo Ismael Simão

This article about new Africa University graduates includes Paulo Ismael Simão, of Mozambique, who studied there for five years aided by an endowed scholarship fund from the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference.

First, he learned English; then he earned a Bachelor of Divinity degree. Simão is returning to Mozambique to serve the UMC there and continue his work with “Art in Movement,” a project that helps children to turn waste into upcycled art.

Simão is one of 526 graduates in the Class of 2019—which is historic because this is the university’s 25th graduating class. He is one six students from Mozambique who received scholarships funded by the Eastern PA Conference through an endowment. Four are new graduates; two are still enrolled.

Three students from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), including one new graduate, received endowed scholarships funded by the Peninsula-Delaware Conference. All their names are below. Asterisks indicate new graduates.

Eastern Pennsylvania Conference


1*Matsinhe MariaFMozambique4th FOT
2*Simao Paulo IsmaelMMozambique4th FOT
3*Jotamo Belmiro AntonioMMozambique4th FOT
4*Leticia BacarFMozambique4th FMA
5Maureen Madalo BandaFMozambique2nd CSSTHE
6Cassumby W. BentoMMozambique2nd FMA
Peninsula-Delaware Conference

D. R. Congo/Central Conference

1*Papy Lunda wa NkuluMD. R. Congo4th FMA
2Lydia IlungaFD. R. Congo2nd FHSS
3Mbwese SadikiMD. R. Congo1st CSSTHE

The graduating scholarship recipients each wrote letters of appreciation to Bishop Peggy Johnson.

“We join these students in thanking you and the churches of the Philadelphia Episcopal Area for your faithful, steadfast, and generous support of Africa University’s transforming ministry,” wrote the Africa University Development Office at the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.  “As our motto states, we are indeed “changing Africa” through our graduates like Simão, Belmiro, Leticia, and Lunda.  Thank you!”

This related story about AU’s recent graduation features Claudine Migisha and other inspiring graduates. Their education is supported by our Africa University apportioned giving and by endowed scholarships, including scholarships from our two conferences, which were established under former Philadelphia Area Bishop Marcus Matthews (retired).

Letters of Appreciation from Africa University graduates

Africa University graduates embrace challenge of changing the narrative

MUTARE, ZIMBABWE–Orphaned at age six, 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. On June 8th, the 26-year-old from the Goma area in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo was awarded an honors degree in Psychology during Africa University’s 25th graduation ceremony.

Claudine Migisha (right) receives congratulations from Wehnam Dabale, upon her graduation from Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe. Migisha, from Goma, Congo, was part of the United Methodist-related school’s 25th graduating class. Dabale is the university’s international student advisor. Photo courtesy of Africa University.

“For the women in my village, education is seen as a hinderance,” 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 passion for change is echoed in the reflections and career aspirations of her fellow graduates in the class of 2019. This class is comprised of 526 young women and men, representing 22 African countries. Most are first-generation college graduates, and 54.6 percent are women.

Belta Sanyanga, a Zimbabwean, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture and Natural Resources and took top honors in Agricultural Sciences. She is one of a growing contingent on young female agriculturalists who are serious about agribusiness as a means of ending food insecurity in sub-Saharan Africa.

Paulo Ismael Simão studied for five years thanks to support from an endowed scholarship fund from the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference. First, he learned English, then he earned a Bachelor of Divinity degree. Simão is returning to Mozambique to serve The United Methodist Church and continue his work with “Art in Movement”—a project that helps children to turn waste into upcycled art.

Vincent Yohanna proudly holds his diploma after graduating from Africa University. Photo courtesy of Africa University.

Vincent Yohanna, a Nigerian, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Medical Laboratory Sciences. Yohanna was recognized at graduation for his community service contributions. He has been accepted into the Global Mission Fellows Program—a short-term, young adult mission service opportunity offered by the General Board of Global Ministries.  After completing a three-week training course in Cambodia, Yohanna will serve as a medical laboratory technician at the Ganta United Methodist Hospital in Liberia for two years.

 All four of these 2019 graduates have already taken up the challenge of transforming Africa issued to their class by Africa University’s Vice Chancellor/CEO, Dr. Munashe Furusa.

“Remember we have invested in Africa’s future through you, the hope that your families have been holding tight to, the sacred seeds we have planted and expect to burst into divine and wondrous flowers,” said Furusa. “Therefore, go forth and build an Africa that we all want and deserve to live in. In doing so, do not neglect your dreams, but keep your faith, affirm your dignity, be kind, caring and generous.”

Furusa reminded the graduates that they were part of a special class, marking the 25th graduation ceremony.

“Our alumni, whose ranks you are joining today, have gone on to take their place among the leaders, movers and shakers of this continent and the world and are reimagining our space in ways that we never thought possible,” he said.

Furusa highlighted Lillian Achom, a Ugandan computer information systems specialist who graduated in 2011. She is revolutionizing the field of Information Technology in her country and realigning the role that women play in the development of the IT sector in Africa. Through her start-up, Grade Score, Achom helps students to evaluate themselves academically and align their talents with their higher education and career choices.

Claudine 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.”

Students and faculty celebrate graduation at Africa University. The school’s vice chancellor, Munashe Furusa, encouraged the graduates to “go forth and build an Africa that we all want and deserve to live in.”

The class of 2019 included Dr. Kenjiro Yamada who was awarded an honorary doctorate in recognition of his contributions to Africa University’s development.  He was instrumental in securing funding from the United States Agency for International Development, (USAID), for the construction of five teaching and academic support buildings on the campus.

Dr. Yamada’s career spans almost five decades in Methodist education, including more than 30 years of leadership at the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM).  He told the graduates not to worry about financial gain.

“Don’t chase the money. Let money chase you,” he said to thunderous applause.

In his commencement address, Rev. Greg Bergquist, the guest of honor and interim general secretary of GBHEM, called on the graduates to be courageous, loving, and kind.

“Regardless of the careers we will begin or, for some of us, the professions we will continue, we each have a choice to make:  Do we continue to live in our current configurations of life, into our standard zones of existence, into the way things have always been,” Bergquist asked.  “Or will we take that small, but profound step into the adjacent possible, into the halo of possibility and promise that is always right beside us?”

For its part, Africa University is transforming itself into a research-intensive institution. The university is also anticipating the launch of various innovations, technological solutions, and engineering products from its innovation hub and clinical research center.

Extension services and community engagement remain key priorities for Africa University and include training and skills development for the private, public and non-governmental sectors through the newly-established Africa University Academy.

Adapted from an article by Jeanette Dadzie, staff of the Africa University Office of Advancement and Public Affairs. Photo credits: Africa University

About Africa University: Africa University, a United Methodist-related institution, aspires to become a world class university for leadership development in Africa. With a current annual full-time enrollment of around 1800 students, Africa University offers undergraduate and post-graduate qualifications in three colleges—Health, Agriculture and Natural Sciences; Business, Peace, Leadership and Governance; and Social Sciences, Theology, Humanities and Education. Africa University opened in 1992 as the first private, pan-African higher education institution located in Zimbabwe. The university has 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.