Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Africa University and Oklahoma City University - Common roots, new branches


By Cherian Thomas

A healthy relationship is developing between the nursing schools of Africa University and Oklahoma City University.

On June 12 in Oklahoma City, their representatives cemented an agreement for collaboration by these United Methodist-related entities.

A reception that day at the United Methodist Ministry Center celebrated the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding. OCU’s president and AU’s vice chancellor were in attendance, as well as Bishop Robert Hayes Jr.

The Kramer School of Nursing at OCU and the School of Nursing at the Faculty of Health Sciences, AU, have a common heritage and some common goals.

Health is a universal denominator, and ill health has no geographic boundaries. It was soon apparent to Jesus that His ministry had to expand beyond teaching and preaching, to include healing the many who flocked to Him.

The Church continued to provide healing ministry down the ages; for John Wesley, caring for the sick was an integral part of his calling. The United Methodist Church has built hospitals and developed nursing schools around the world.

The United Methodist Church, in response to a call by two bishops from Africa, committed itself in the 1980s to establish a center for higher learning that would cater to students from all over Africa. AU officially began in 1992 on 1,542 acres of land donated by The United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe. The campus is 10-plus miles from the town of Mutare, Zimbabwe.

The AU Faculty of Health Sciences was started in 2005 and provides graduate-level degrees in nursing, public health, and medical laboratory technology; and an undergraduate degree in health sciences management.

In Africa, nurses are the primary caregivers in many hospitals, and investing in nursing schools is a logical way to improve the health of the community.

In November 2013, three Oklahomans traveled to Mutare: Mary Brenner, OCU director of academic services; Susan Barnes from Kramer School of Nursing; and Jeremy Basset, director of the Oklahoma Conference Office of Mission. They met with officials and staff of both AU and specifically the School of Nursing.

That group’s initial agreement to work together led to the fruitful Oklahoma City meeting in June with Dr. Munashe Furusa, new AU vice chancellor, and Dr. Gilbert Wembodinga, dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at AU.

OCU’s Kramer School of Nursing will send students to Mutare for experience in global health, and the AU Faculty of Health Sciences will send one of its lecturers in nursing to Kramer School for a Ph.D. program.

Kudzai Chikwanda has been selected as the first lecturer from AU for this program. She will begin her doctoral studies at OCU in the near future.

After her first semester, she will return to Zimbabwe and continue her studies online. The Oklahoma Conference Office of Mission, General Board of Global Ministries, and OCU Kramer School of Nursing will provide scholarships for her travel, tuition, board, and lodging.

In May 2015, faculty and students from Kramer School of Nursing will head to Mutare to learn about the health issues facing rural communities in Zimbabwe.

During this immersion experience, the group will attend classes at the AU Faculty of Health Sciences, visit community-based health projects, and observe patient care at United Methodist Old Mutare Mission Hospital, which is across the road from that university.

This exchange of faculty and students between the universities is expected to be followed by many more in future years.

(Dr. Cherian Thomas, a global health specialist, is a consultant for the Office of Mission/Kingswood Institute.)


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At a June 12 reception in Oklahoma City are (from left) OCU President Robert Henry; Gilbert Wembodinga, dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Africa University;  Assistant to the Bishop Joseph  Harris, also an AU Advisory Committee member; Susan Barnes,  associate professor of OCU School of Nursing; Munashe Furusa, new AU vice chancellor; Bishop Robert Hayes Jr.; and Jeremy Basset,  director of the Oklahoma  Conference Office of Mission.


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