wanda’s prime minister cut the ribbon at the grand opening of a state-of-the-art facility that is expected to turn the Adventist University of Central Africa into a leading provider of IT and communication specialists for the region.
The inauguration of the Science and Technology Center, one of two major Adventist-owned buildings that were opened in Rwanda this week, marks the transformation of the university from a run-down place where students were ashamed to be seen into a top-flight school.
Prime Minister Anastase Murekesi, who toured the campus with a delegation that included Adventist Church leader Ted N.C. Wilson, thanked Wilson on Wednesday for making good on a promise in 2012 to support health and education in Rwanda.
Wilson in turn thanked Murekesi for fulfilling a government pledge to construct a 1 mile (2-kilometer) paved road to the campus’ entrance.
“Three years ago when breaking the ground for the building of this center, Pastor Ted Wilson left me with a promise of a church vision to support health and education in Rwanda,” Murekesi said. “On our part as the Rwandan government, we pledged to build a road. … Both promises have been kept. This is therefore an excellent partnership, and I look forward to many more years of fruitful collaboration.”
The university, formerly located in Mudende in western Rwanda, was destroyed by the 1994 genocide. It reopened in Gishushu, along the main road between the country’s main airport and the capital, Kigali, but offered sparse classroom space in old buildings until construction work started in earnest in 2012.
“It was like a slum,” university rector Abel Ngabo Sebahahashya said at the ceremony Wednesday.
He said students used to sneak on and off the campus with “a sense of humiliation and frustration,” hoping that no one saw them.
The campus is no longer “a kindergarten project but a world-class project,” said university chancellor Blasious Ruguri, who also serves as president of the Adventist Church’s East-Central Africa Division.
The new building contains 24 classrooms that can accommodate 40 to 60 students. Each classroom boasts a smartboard, replacing chalk or a felt tip pen with a fully networked, digitally responsive whiteboard that facilitates presentations and the instant archiving of lecture notes. The center’s computer labs are equipped with state-of-the-art networked technology that allows students to study with teachers onsite or remotely.
The university, which has about 4,000 students, is working to make all of its teaching materials available digitally. Even the library will be fully digitized, with e-books to students’ computers.
The university also broke ground on Wednesday on a new guesthouse and dormitories. The rector said a school of medicine would open in 2016, the first in Rwanda and Central Africa.
The university’s expansion comes at a key time for the Rwandan government, which has vowed “to transform itself from a low-income agriculture-based economy to a knowledge-based, service-oriented economy with a middle-income country status by 2020,” according to a country report by the World Bank.
Before the prime minister left the campus, Wilson prayed for him and his family, Rwanda’s president, and the government. Wilson claimed a Bible promise regarding wisdom for the prime minister: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5).
In a separate ceremony Tuesday, Wilson oversaw the opening of an eight-story headquarters for the Rwanda Union Mission. The mission had been operating in a modest building since its establishment in 1984, but the local church is quickly growing and Kigali has rapidly transformed into a regional center.
Rwanda is one of the Adventist Church’s fastest growing regions, with an average growth rate of 7 percent a year, and it has nearly 700,000 members.
The new headquarters offers spacious suites for church offices and for rent, and a stunning view of Kigali from its terrace at the top.
The headquarters and the new university center cost a combined 5 billion Rwandan francs ($7.2 million), church leaders said.
Wilson said in a speech that the new buildings were magnificent, but Adventists should not be blinded to the fact that they are tools to exercise a strong spiritual influence throughout the country and to help prepare Rwandans for the coming of Jesus.
In an acknowledgement of the humble beginnings of the work in Rwanda, Wilson and Hesron Byilingiro, president of the church in Rwanda, unveiled a plaque in front of the building to commemorate the legacy of Henri Monnier, the Swiss missionary who brought the Adventist message to Rwanda in 1923 and was the first to translate the Bible into the local Kinyarwanda language.
Steven Bina, communication director for the East-Central Africa Division, contributed to this report.