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More than a diploma

Christian college in Africa aims for graduates to create jobs. Administrators say they must help students become entrepreneurs and launch businesses that will help churches.

ACCRA, Ghana Any trip through the streets of this West African capital doubles as a lesson in microeconomics.

Snarled ­in bumper-to-bumper traffic — sometimes for hours — motorists find businessmen and women at their windows, hoisting above their heads bags of homemade bread, cards with cell phone minutes and rolls of toilet paper.

The hawkers weave between the cars, minibuses and mopeds, peddling their wares. Along the sides of the dusty streets, local artisans offer handmade jewelry, tables and chairs.

Merchants are everywhere — seemingly countless, all selling the same few things.

The founders of Heritage Christian College, a school in the northern part of this city, want to do more than provide a faith-based education for the next generation of Ghana’s church leaders. They want to help people in their nation of 25.9 million souls become business-savvy entrepreneurs, giving them tools to improve their lives.
The college’s focus “is not to make a name for ourselves, but to make a difference.”

Twumasi-AnkrahThose tools, said the college’s president, Samuel Twumasi-Ankrah, must be more than diplomas.

“The biggest problem we have in Africa — in all countries in Africa, in all colleges and universities — is thousands and thousands of students graduate every year, and (many) are graduating with no jobs,” he said in an interview with The Christian Chronicle a few weeks before the college’s Grand Inaugural Program.

The college, a longtime dream of Twumasi-Ankrah and other African Christians at the 1,200-member Nsawam Road Church of Christ in Accra, has received accreditation from Ghana’s government. The inaugural program, scheduled for mid-June, bears the theme “Making Our Nation Great and Strong.”

In addition to offering degrees in fields such as accounting, business administration, marketing, information technology and theology, the college plans to help students launch businesses before they graduate, Twumasi-Ankrah said.

A third story of classrooms is under construction at Heritage Christian College in Accra, Ghana.The college’s faculty also plans to host seminars for their country’s countless artisans — including woodworkers and brick masons — to teach them packaging, marketing and other skills to help them improve their income, all in the name of Christ.

Ghanaian believers envisioned and initiated creation of the college. Deon Fair, a church member who lives in Texas, chairs a foundation for the college, which serves Heritage Christian’s all-Ghanaian board of trustees, who seek to make the work self-sustaining.

Initially, the college will draw on assistance from U.S. supporters through the foundation “to help the Ghanaians in achieving self-sustaining status, Lord willing, within a five-to-eight-year window,” said Fair, a native of South Africa. “Longer term, American Christians can still help by assisting the Ghanaians to provide funds for scholarships for orphans and ministers.”

The college’s focus, Twumasi-Ankrah said, “is not to make a name for ourselves, but to make a difference.” In courses from business to Bible, the college seeks to instill “Christian values that can prepare them for life.”

ACADEMICS ACROSS AFRICA

In 2009, the college’s administrators signed a Memorandum of Understanding with representatives of Abilene Christian University. The Texas university promised to provide a rotation of temporary faculty and offer scholarships to train potential professors from Ghana — plus secure Internet access to its library.

Across Africa, Christians work in similar education efforts — in partnership with Churches of Christ and universities associated with the fellowship.

• In Nigeria, longtime minister Moses Akpanudo launched Obong University, a four-year Christian university accredited in 2007. The university offers degrees in business and liberal arts. Related Articles: A Conversation with Moses Akpanudo
• In Nairobi, the Kenya Christian Industrial Training Institute trains students in computer operations, Web design, automotive engineering and electronics.

• In Rwanda, government officials send young scholars to Oklahoma Christian University in Oklahoma City to earn degrees — with the understanding that they return to help better their nation.

• In Uganda, LivingStone International University recently graduated its second class of students. Churches of Christ and Christian Churches in the U.S. help support the school. In addition to Christian ministry, LivingStone offers degree programs in education, business and media technology.

Heritage Christian College students use laptop computers to study for exams.


“We’re trying to focus on where the employable fields are and offer those degree programs,” said Craig Smith, director of LivingStone University Partners, a support organization for the school. “We want graduates who can create jobs.”

Manna EidManna Eid, who graduated at the top of LivingStone’s first class, works in photography and is preparing to pursue a master’s degree.

“I do believe that we have been trained well,” Eid told the Chronicle. “I see it more in the class that just graduated, as some students got employed before they graduated.”

Christian education may not yet mean a lot to employers in Uganda, she added, but “it does shape one’s personality, outlook and how they handle certain situations — compared to someone else who did not receive that kind of an education.”

FUTURE ELDERS, DEACONS AND DONORS

In Ghana, Churches of Christ have grown rapidly, thanks in part to churches including Nsawam Road and to Heritage Bible Institute, which has produced 424 men and women “as a workforce for the kingdom of God” in the past 33 years, said Evans Lartey, the institute’s director. Ministry students have helped plant more than 900 Churches of Christ throughout the nations of West Africa — and as far away as South Sudan. Evans Lartey

Heritage Christian College will provide similar, faith-based education as part of its curriculum, Twumasi-Ankrah said. The college currently has 45 students enrolled in its accredited degree programs, and administrators hope to grow the enrollment as high as 1,200 in coming years.

As they seek to strengthen their nation, the college’s administrators also seek to prepare their students to lead — and serve — in its churches.

“They are the ones who will become future elders, future deacons, future board members and future donors who will provide funds for future projects of Churches of Christ,” Twumasi-Ankrah said of the students.

“Until they are empowered,” he added, “there’s no way they can have the wherewithal to function more effectively for the growth of the church.”

For more information, see Heritage Christian College’s website, and the university foundation site.

Filed under: International Headlines - Secondary

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