Thursday, August 28, 2008

Africa University Rises to Zimbabwe Challenges

This week, news outlets reported that Zimbabwe’s annual inflation rate rocketed to 11.2 million percent in June, the highest in the world.

This news comes only a few weeks after I visited Zimbabwe to participate in the Africa Central Conference on the campus of Africa University. During that visit, the cost of a soft drink was 250 billion Zimbabwean dollars – or about $1.80 in U.S. currency. The Federal Reserve Bank has since dropped 10 zeroes from the currency, turning 10 billion dollars into a single dollar.

As I arrived in Zimbabwe, the three parties in the country’s political crisis had just signed an agreement to end the political violence and negotiate to find a peaceful resolution to months and months of violence. The violence has ebbed, but the political crisis continues without a full resolution.

Amid the tension, the country is calm and Africa University is open. At one point during the crisis, Africa University was the only university in the entire country to remain open, holding classes, making payroll, and feeding its students and thousands of its neighbors. Our university is an inspiration in this troubled land.

This is not to say things are not difficult at Africa University. They are.

Hyperinflation makes it increasingly difficult to keep up. At this point, the reserves are basically depleted. Africa University has to do a juggling act in order to pay bills and keep up with expenses. University fees—in Zimbabwe dollars—have to be reviewed every month because of the rapidly escalating costs, though fees paid in U.S. dollars remain the same. Monthly salary increases are necessary in order to hold on to the workforce.

Our churches’ help is needed so Africa University can continue to educate future leaders and serve as a shining example for the continent. The best way to assist is to send in your Africa University apportionments for 2008 early—and to pay 100 percent.

While money is important to Africa University, your prayers are the foundation for its success. Please pray without ceasing for Zimbabwe and the university.

--James Salley, Associate Vice-Chancellor for Institutional Advancement, Africa University

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