Burundi – the what? Hope Africa University

Previously we put up a post with a bit about the where of Bujumbura, Burundi, and our plans to move there. Next we’ll talk about the why and the how..but for now, this post is for those wondering what exactly what we are going to be doing in Burundi.  The main trigger that is drawing us to Burundi is Hope Africa University.

NOTE: same disclaimer as last time. I in no way claim to have a firm grasp on the complex and evolving situation in a nation that I have visited one time and read some books on. I only can relay what I have learned, in hopes it gives you some clarity.

Hope Africa University

IMG_0802HAU is a university in the capital of Bujumbura that was started about ten years ago, by the local church.  To me there are several things in that statements that are important.

First, it was started 10 years ago, meaning – during a civil war. The leaders had the courage to try to build something while their country was in the middle of social, economic, political turmoil. Also – it speaks of hope – that they believed the war would end, and when it did, they wanted to be ready to be part of the solution. They wanted  to  create Hope Africa University so it could be used in rebuilding.

Secondly, it was started locally. Hope Africa University is an African University.  It was not and idea that was imposed by western aid donors. People who know their country, with the resources it has, the obstacles it faces, and the reality they would like to create – decided that a University could play a key role in trying to form their future.

Third, it was started by the church.  When I was there I had some really good conversations with people in the business program, and the university at large. They really genuinely feel that they are called to train men and women who will not only have the skills required to lead their country, but they are adamant about fighting the corruption, and providing moral leadership for the nation. HAU is training physicians ,teachers, business leaders, engineers, and so many others who will live out the calling they have on their lives, to invest in the well being of their neighbours and their countries. They do this out of a sense of love and joy that they have found in their faith. They believe that God has given to them, and so they will share with others. They believe in helping their neighbour because God asked them to do so. And  that’s something I can get on board with.

 

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“People have forgotten that hope Africa University opened in Burundi while there was still a war going on. This act of courage and faith was a vote of confidence in the future, making a contribution by its very existence to stability and hope in the region. Out of half a century of international involvement, I must say personally that this kingdom institution has a multiplier potential through its graduates to permeate society and to literally change the moral tone of a whole region of Africa, perhaps with influence on the whole continent.”

More information on the university can be found here

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One of the things that really excites me is that my planned role includes not only teaching at Hope Africa University, but also working to raise up entrepreneurs from within the school, and outside in other parts of the community.  The details are still being worked out, but the plan is to establish a program with some training, mentorship and funding for students and graduates of HAU – so that they can bring to life what they have learned, and so that they can multiply the impact that is made on their nation.

Perhaps one of the things about serving in education that makes this  so exciting is the multiplication of teaching vs doing.  I could spend a few years in Burundi working on a project – or, I could teach for a few years and help educate a great number of people.  Our future team leader, who has just landed in Bujumbura, is a pediatrician, teaching at the medical school at HAU.  He has spent time in Malawi and Kenya working as a physician – but he said to me something along the lines of “I can work as a doctor, and I am only one. Or, I can instead help to train up dozens, or hundreds. If I work as a doctor, when I leave – so do the benefits. If I help train – they remain in the country”  Basically it’s the preverbal ‘teach a man to fish vs. give a man a fish’ situation.

The larger question as to why higher education is so critical can partially be seen in the introduction to his book “Life After Violence:  A People’s Story of Burundi.” Peter Uvin describes the current situation in the following way:

Burundi has arrived at a crossroads. A long history of conflict, ethnic polarization and politicization, authoritarian rule, a decade of civil war, and growing impoverishment lies on one side, and power-sharing arrangements, democratic elections, peace agreements, demobilizations, and an infusion of development aid on the other.  Some have fought, some have fled, some have stayed, but all have faced dramatically limited opportunities. These young adults who came of age during the war now represent the future of Burundi.

This book, written by an academic, based on interviews with hundreds of Burundians comes to the conclusion that, for this nation, there is a key point in their history now.  The young adults who were raised during the conflict are the ones who need the will and ability to change their country.  That’s where a university comes in.

Countries shown with their size proportional to their proportion of world spending on university education. (not scaled per capita – just raw total spending per nation)

Hope Africa University was created to raise up future leaders to help the nation, and the region, deal with the issues that need addressing. In fact the motto “Facing African realities” gives a good sense to the role that they see for themselves.  They want to train the young men and women, who grew up during the time when many of the problems were formed, so that they can be part of the solutions.

Obviously, my teaching at the University will not be the only thing we will be doing in Burundi. Our whole family is really excited about what our lives will look like there, what we will learn, how we can help out in different ways that emerge. This is not at all a situation where our family is moving because I have a job to do there, but we (as a couple, and even as a whole family) truly feel that this is what God is calling us to do at this point in our lives.  It is a way that we can give back to others, using the skills, education & experience that we have been given.