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Regional Collaboration and Enhancement of Their Identity Dominates Academic Conference of AMECEA Catholic Universities and Colleges

By Pamela Adinda, AMECEA 

Heads of Catholic Universities and Colleges in AMECEA Region met in Nairobi for their Second Conference, a call for collaboration among the institutions which would result in best practices such as possible exchange of programs for both staff and students in view of enhancing the AMECEAness dominated the discussions. At the same time, the heads proposed a need to create a niche for the institutions and so make them distinct in service provision, standing out as centres of excellence in higher education.

The Conference hosted at Hekima University College from 19th-23rd November under the theme Catholic University Today is a fulfillment of a resolution by the 19th AMECEA Plenary held in Addis Ababa Ethiopia in 2018, which sought to strengthen the institutions within the region.

In his message of solidarity to the conference participants, AMECEA Chairman Rt. Rev. Charles Kasonde said that the principal objective of AMECEA is the collective mandate to function in the spirit of collaboration, liaison, and promotion of mutual relationship and sharing among its members. This objective, mission Bishop Kasonde said, would greatly enhance the promotion of inter-communication and cooperation among Catholic tertiary institutions in the AMECEA Region.

Speaking at the opening of the conference, CUEA Vice-Chancellor Rev. Prof Stephen Mbugua said that the selection of topics for this second conference, which included Spiritual Formation, Our Common Mission As Catholic Institutions, Child Protection, Teaching Care, Research And Innovation as well as Sustainability among others were meant to stimulate their thinking and help to form a solidarity of brain tanks for AMECEA

AMECEA BATORIn photo addressing Heads of Catholic Universities and Colleges in AMECEA Region, is Rev. Dr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator SJ, Chairman Hekima University College Board of Trustees

Prof Mbugua called on his counter-parts to seek areas of strength in their respective institutions which can become their niche. Among the areas, he suggested include research, innovation, sustainability, governance, environment, social needs of AMECEA people, and pastoral, among others.

“We also need to create research pools from our institutions that will seek funding and areas of concern so that they can be providing collaborated empirical data for our common homeland. This will create a platform where we address our issues collectively. Consequently, this will give AMECEA a global standing as Catholic higher institutions of learning,” Prof Mbugua said, adding that if Catholic high learning institutions do not spur such niches, they cannot stand out as Church institutions in the face of great challenges from secular institutions.

Speaking at the same event, Chairman of Hekima University College Board of Trustees Rev. Dr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator SJ, pointed out that the context of the mission of Catholic Universities and colleges offers two key opportunities to the stakeholders, namely creative collaboration and imaginative networking.

“We are at our best when we are in partnership with others and this entails connecting our strengths, linking our purposes and aligning our visions in mutuality rather than in competition or worse still in isolation,” Fr. Orobator who is President of Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM) said, adding that the collaboration that Catholic Universities and Colleges in Eastern Africa are beginning to fashion now ought to be wide and inclusive enough for women colleagues to contribute, receive recognition and accrue the experience, visibility, and achievement to compete for advancement in the ecosystem of Catholic Higher Education in AMECEA Region and beyond.

He further expressed that collaboration offers exciting possibilities and that it is the sharing of a vision from different locations, perspectives and contexts that enriches our shared understanding of reality and how we go about shaping and reshaping it. Fr. Orobator explained that innovation comes out of that concentration of strength, purposes, and visions and that the possibilities of collaboration and networking require a depth of imagination.

Prof Mbugua who is also the interim chair of the Vice-Chancellors of Catholic Universities in AMECEA also observed that it would be wonderful to have all policies in human service and environment made by faith-informed policymakers.

“We may have the best motto or the best vision and mission, but if they are not incarnated in the teaching of Chemistry, Biology, Social sciences among others, then everything remains on paper and our billboards. We need to revolutionize our education through research and dissemination of our findings for proper practices.”

He said that there is a need to stimulate paradigm shifts in education so that it could be faith and value-filled.

“This is our cutting edge as Catholic institutions. People are looking for education with a difference; an education that meets our governance, economic, and industrial needs that are imbued or stained by faith,” he said adding that the rising or collapse of our Catholic institutions will be based on these premises and that a forum as such a conference provides a good moment to form linkages and alliances between the institutions that will spur the shining of Catholic institutions.