Africa University and the 20th Episcopal District are partnering to increase access to higher education for students in East and Southern Africa. The groundbreaking collaboration—a first for the 20th Episcopal District—provides a pathway for graduates of AME schools in five African countries to matriculate at Africa University.
The 20th Episcopal District will enroll seven students each year, beginning in March 2020. An anonymous gift of $700,000, given to Africa University, will provide most of the funding to educate 28 students from the 20th Episcopal District over a seven-year period. However, the District will need to raise additional funds to invest in the initiative. “I am very excited about the partnership because in the 20th Episcopal District—which is made up of the countries of Uganda, Tanzania, Northwest Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe—we have 35 AME schools,” said Bishop Ronnie Elijah Brailsford, Sr., who was assigned as the presiding prelate in July 2016. “Six of those schools are high schools,” said Brailsford. “We do not have a university or college, so this provides an opportunity for many of our students from the various countries to get a good education,” he continued.
The Education Empowerment Project within the 20th Episcopal District—especially involving women, girls, and orphans—is imperative for Bishop Brailsford and his wife, the Rev. Carolyn E. Brailsford, who serves the district as their Episcopal supervisor. The partnership with Africa University is a natural extension of the Education Empowerment Project of the 20th Episcopal District Women’s Missionary Society, under the leadership of the Rev. Brailsford. The Project already provides scholarships and school supplies for primary to college students.
According to Bishop Brailsford, “the minds we help to shape today will help to shape the world tomorrow.” Opening new opportunities for Africa-focused and high-quality professional and leadership training in a church-related setting is a logical and crucial next step for the Brailsfords.
“Seeing them (the students) become the persons that they are meant to be, instead of the usual or expected reality of being married or becoming pregnant and starting motherhood at age 13 or 14, is the greatest joy,” said the Rev. Brailsford. “Too often, after girls and orphans complete the 8th Grade, they are done. There’s no one to invest in them so that they move forward in their education. However, given a chance and the necessary support through these mission efforts, we are seeing them enroll in college, graduate, and start their own businesses. They are taking charge of their lives and I can’t think of anything better than that,” she added.
Bishop Brailsford made his first visit to the Africa University’s main campus in October 2019. While there, he met with the AU Board chair, directors, and senior administrators who highlighted international student recruitment as a high priority and area of intense focus for the institution over the next five years. “We are sister churches, born of the same Wesleyan tradition into the global Methodist family, so for us to come together like this is really mutually-beneficial,” said the AU Board Chair, Bishop Mande Muyombo.
For Muyombo and the Brailsfords, this partnership exploits a natural fit between what Africa University’s ministry provides and the emerging needs of the communities served by the 20th Episcopal District. “I really see this as a divine opportunity that God has put our two entities together for the betterment of the children of Africa and what can happen for their future,” said Bishop Brailsford. “At its heart, our shared mission is to equip people to think and do for themselves, uplift their communities, and see God’s promise of abundant life realized in the world,” Muyombo added.
“It is a tremendous partnership for Africa University that God delivered,” said James H. Salley, the Institution’s Chief Advancement Officer. Salley and Brailsford are both South Carolinians and they have been talking about Africa University for years. “I’ve been asking Bishop Brailsford to come and see us,” said Salley. “He finally did and a vision for the AME Church to collaborate with Africa University in recruiting international students has taken shape. It is timely and extremely helpful to Africa University’s strategic plan and efforts to significantly increase the enrollment of international students,” he added.