Since July 1, Munashe Furusa has served as vice chancellor of United Methodist-related Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe. It is a role similar to a university president in the United States. He recently spoke to Heather Hahn of United Methodist News Service about his plans for the university, which has 1,274 students from 23 African countries. These are highlights from the interview.
You’ve devoted your first month to interaction with faculty and staff. What has impressed you in these discussions?
I have really been impressed first of all by the commitment and dedication of our faculty and staff. They are really dedicated to their work.
What have you learned from the students?
I have met with the student leadership, and I have gone to the dining hall and sat down with the students. And they have expressed clearly their three top priorities — accommodations, sporting facilities and a student union.
Do you have any immediate plans for these new structures?
We are engaging in fundraising for them right now. I have had conversations with some companies, some banks, to talk about some of the things they can do.
What are Africa University’s top three assets?
The first asset is that it is God’s project. This university was created out of the understanding that they wanted to train ethically-grounded, morally-grounded leaders for Africa. … The second asset for Africa University is its pan-African nature. … The third asset is that Africa University has been blessed with many relationships and many connections from across the world. The United Methodist Church has really cultivated these relationships.
What are your top priorities for the university?
The first priority is to balance the budget. Africa University, I’m learning, has had a budget deficit for last three or so years. So it is important that as a university we look into the way that we do business. …
The second goal that I have is really to bring accountability and transparency to the university. I have learned with great humility and appreciation the contributions that people have made through their churches and conferences. Individuals have sacrificed their family resources. They deserve that we are accountable and transparent in the way that we use those resources.
What impact has Ebola had on Africa University as a pan-African institution?
I want to stress that so far there are no cases that have been detected at Africa University. … We have about four students from affected areas. And we are paying attention to that. We have had bishops that come in the last week from affected areas. But we have a surveillance plan. We have the protocols that we have established. We also have rapid-response teams on campus.
Health care workers Africa University has trained are now on the front lines of fighting this disease.
That’s one thing that Africa University has done. It has really produced leaders. It is realizing its mission and vision of training leaders for Africa. We have a lot of leaders. And we have people who are in leadership positions actually coming to be trained at the university. Right now, the Chief Immigration Officer in Zimbabwe is a student on our campus.
How self-sufficient is Africa University?
We have our farm that produces most of the produce that the faculty and staff and students eat. …The Africa University farm is reaching at the point now where it can also supply other places.
What else would you like to mention?
I just want to say that really Africa University is a special place. ... First, Africa happens at Africa University every day. And secondly, Africa University has a lot of love that has been poured into it. You just feel it and sense it as you walk the corridors, as you talk to people, as you look at the beautiful buildings that have been put up there. I know it’s a sacrifice that people have made for Africa University. So I just want to say I’m very grateful. … And I fully believe Africa University is going to be a premier university.
Hahn is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service. Contact her at (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org