Zimbabwe’s Economic Woes Create Urgent Funding Need

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 3, 2008

Zimbabwe's Economic Woes Create Urgent Funding Need
Africa University Shines Through Adversity

Old Mutare, Zimbabwe: Operating in a nation beset by economic and political crises, Africa University has issued an urgent plea for United Methodist congregations to fulfill their 2008 financial obligations to the Zimbabwe-based school.

Fanuel Tagwira, interim vice chancellor of the United Methodist-related university, made the plea today in a letter addressed to United Methodist leaders around the globe.

"As I write you, our 1,300 students are on the campus of Africa University for the 2008/2009 academic year. . . . While Africa University has not missed a day of classes during this difficult time, we are now facing a crisis," Tagwira wrote.

The core of the university's worsening financial situation is Zimbabwe's hyperinflation, tagged by the government at an astounding 11 million percent in June.The country's currency loses value by the hour on many days.

One key source of financial support comes from a special United Methodist churchwide fund that levies an apportionment to congregations. In 2008, that fund's target is $2.5 million.

Tagwira is urging congregations to pay their entire Africa University apportionment early to help the university get through the crisis.

"As our reserve accounts dwindle as a result of the nation's dire economic situation, we need your immediate financial support through the apportionments that come from the Africa University fund," Tagwira wrote.

Since opening in 1992, Africa University has become a beacon of hope for Zimbabwe and for Africa. Its graduates have become key leaders in civil society, government, and the church all across Africa. Students this year come from 22 African countries.

As Zimbabwe has been mired in economic and political crises, there have been times when Africa University was the nation's only institution of higher education open for classes. And it is a partner in an off-campus daily feeding program, providing meals for 5,000 vulnerable children including many AIDS orphans.

Tagwira said the university has altered its billing practices because of the out of control inflation, requiring students to make monthly payments for tuition and room and board instead of paying once a semester.

"We know this creates a hardship for our Zimbabwean students and their parents, but in the current environment, we believe this is the best way to move forward," he wrote.

"We are conserving financial resources in every possible way. We have continued to meet our payroll, pay our bills and serve our community and continent. Nonetheless, we have been forced to deplete our reserve funds to meet day-to-day obligations," Tagwira explained.

The interim vice chancellor said Africa University is prepared to assist once the nation's elected leaders reach an equitable, peaceful resolution to Zimbabwe's political difficulties.

"The university's Institute of Peace Leadership and Governance is an important resource. The Institute is positioned to be part of the long-term solution of Zimbabwe's problems. It is highly respected throughout Zimbabwe and across Africa.

Tagwira said Africa University is "doing exceedingly well" during this tumultuous period. "During this extraordinary time in Zimbabwe, we are committed to do everything we can to meet our mission to provide a quality education within a Pan-African context. Our campus is safe. Our faculty is well qualified and respected around the world. Our students are dedicated to learning and excited to be in school," he wrote.

"Along with your financial support, we ask for your prayers, for our university, and for our nation as it struggles to find its way during this season of unease," he concluded.

Persons wishing to make individual online contributions to Africa University should go to the Africa University Development Office Web site. The office is located in Nashville, TN. The telephone number is (615) 340-7348.


Media Contacts:
Diane Denton
615.742.5406 (o) 615.483.1765 (m)
Vicki Brown
615.340.7380 (o) 615.944.4621 (m)

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