Transform Africa! Arun Gandhi Urges Graduates

Guest post by Sharai Nondo | Africa University

Arun Gandhi African University Commencement

Arun Gandhi gives the commencement address.

The graduating class of 2011 — the 17th class of graduates for the United Methodist-related school — included 279 bachelor’s degree and 71 master’s degree recipients from 19 African countries.

Gandhi, an author, journalist and social activist and the grandson of Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi, urged the graduates to “use the knowledge that (they) acquired at Africa University to transform Africa.

“Turn the knowledge that you have received at Africa University into wisdom,” Gandhi said. “You should always be mindful of the fact that Africa is growing and so are you, and what it will become is because of what you will do.”

Marilyn Chimbaira graduating

Marilyn Chimbaira held the highest grade point average (3.83) among Africa University class of 2011.

Amid the June 11 celebration, many of the graduates reflected on the difficulties they overcame and what they plan to do with their knowledge.

“It was only through God’s help,” said Marilyn Chimbaira, the top female graduate in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and the top student in the graduating class.

“I had a very difficult time; my parents were struggling with the fees, but I think this is what also motivated me to work even harder,” said Chimbaira, who at one point received help from the university’s financial aid program.

Bright Mutingwende, a student from the Faculty of Management and Administration, said that he owes his success to God, his family and the scholarship he received from the Bishop Leontine T.C. Kelly Endowed Scholarship Fund.

“I am very grateful”

Marilyn Chimbaira achieved the highest grade-point average among Africa University’s class of 2011. “I told my father that if I go to Africa University and produce outstanding results, I would get a scholarship, and I did,” Mutingwende said. “I am very grateful to my sponsors for their support.”

Both Chimbaira and Mutingwende indicated they would like to work in Zimbabwe before enrolling in graduate studies. Zimbabwe’s economic growth is up 8.1 percent and its inflation rate is 3.6 percent, which prompted many of the graduates to say they would stay home to try to contribute to the development of their nation.

Other graduates from countries such as Angola, Ghana, Liberia, Malawi and Zambia talked about returning home to play their part in the reconstruction of their nations.

“We are thinking of establishing an IT company, which will have bases in Malawi and Zimbabwe,” said Jeffrey Mtini-Nkhoma, a Malawian who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems.

The university recognized graduate Prosper Mutengo for service to the wider community.

“It’s humbling”

“It’s humbling. …I can’t believe that the little things that I was doing on campus have led to this recognition,” said Mutengo, who was involved in Peer Network and outreach programs in HIV/AIDS and in the Africa University Choir.

Mutengo, who majored in environmental studies, also launched a tree-planting project, distributing eucalyptus seedlings within the university community and to high schools around Mutare. He plans to expand the project to the rural areas of Zimbabwe where he sees strong potential in eucalyptus-tree farming to improve economic prospects for local farmers.

“I was encouraged to do what I did with the little resource I had to make an impact,” Mutengo said. “I give credit to this institution because of the spirituality, the work of the chaplain’s office and the inspiration from the founders of this institution.”

In his graduation address, Fanuel Tagwira, Africa University’s vice chancellor, recognized two pioneer groups among the graduates. The Faculty of Agriculture and Natural Resources conferred degrees on its first eight majors in Natural Resources Management, and the Faculty of Management and Administration awarded the postgraduate diploma in non-governmental organization management to five candidates.

Tagwira also highlighted the continuing collaboration between Africa University, the World Intellectual Property Organization and the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization. This collaboration produced the first master’s degree program in intellectual property in sub-Saharan Africa.

Once again, Africa University alumni supported the institution with cash prizes recognizing academic excellence among the graduates.

“We value every graduation as the making of history … and will continue to bring our unvarying support to make and live the dream of making Africa a better place,” said Freddy Kyoni, a member of the alumni chapter and one of 17 Africa University graduates working at Tenke Fungurume Mining in Katanga Province.

Africa University officially opened its doors to 40 students from six African nations in 1992. The university has an annual full-time student enrolment of 1,200. There are 28 African nations represented this year in the student body. Africa University’s first graduation ceremony took place in December 1994, and the school now has almost 4,000 alumni.

News media contact: Maggie Hillery, Nashville, Tenn., 615-742-5470 or

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