SEKUCo's First "Letter" to the World

A message from the Provost of SEKUCo, Dr. Anneth Munga:

Friends of SEKUCo, wherever you are,

We are happy to inform you that

SEKUCo’s FIRST “LETTER” TO THE WORLD HAS BEEN SENT OUT!

From SEKUCo graduation 2010

On 4th December 2010, the Sebastian Kolowa University College (SEKUCo) of Tumaini University had its first graduation! 75 men and 57 women were awarded the Bachelor of Education Special Needs degree by the Chancellor of Tumaini University, Bishop Dr. Alex Malasusa, assisted by the Vice Chancellor, Prof. John Shao. Many guests from within and outside Tanzania were present at the ceremony. Leaders from Mzumbe University, Sokoine University of Agriculture, Makumira University College and Stefano Moshi Memorial University College attended. Leaders and representatives from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, South Eastern Pennsylvania Synod (USA), United Evangelical Mission (Germany), Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission (Finland), International Association of Special Education and friends from Sweden joined us for this unique occasion. The Guest Speaker of the Day was the Former President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Hon. Benjamin W. Mkapa, who attended the ceremony together with his wife Mama Anna Mkapa. Hon. Mkapa congratulated the graduates and encouraged them to work hard to promote inclusion in all sectors of the society. Lena Maria Klingvall from Sweden entertained us as she beautifully sang How Great Thou Art, You Raise Me Up and To God be the Glory. Bishop Dr. Stephen Munga, the Chairman of the SEKUCo Governing Board, said to the graduates: You are our first letter to the society and we will be following your achievements with great interest!

SEKUCo was opened by the North Eastern Diocese (NED) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, a Church which has a long experience of working for and with people who have different types of disabilities. For more than a century, the NED has been working through institutions and outreach programmes to support people with leprosy, mental health problems, orphans, children who have visual and intellectual disabilities and other marginalised groups. SEKUCo builds upon the tradition of its founder by putting focus on physical, sensory, mental, emotional, social and economical disabilities.

On 28th October 2007, the first students were received and registered under the programme of Bachelor of Education Special Needs. The following year we added the programme of Bachelor of Laws. In the academic year 2009/2010, the programme of Bachelor of Science in Eco-tourism and Nature Conservation was launched. Students’ enrolment has developed as follows:

Students
Year Total
2007/2008 138
2008/2009 438
2009/2010 850
2010/2011 1331

We are now in our 4th academic year and with almost ten times the initial number of students, we rejoice in seeing how the work being done at SEKUCo draws the attention of people. Thank you for being among our steadfast partners who have committed themselves to this crucial mission!

People who are non-disabled often look upon disabilities as a problem of others. However, it is a fact of life that from the time of conception to the hour of death we are all subjected to factors which can cause temporary or permanent disability. With the awareness that anyone can acquire disability at some point in life, it should be in the interest of any government to ensure that at all levels and sectors of society, planning considers disabled people’s needs, rights and potentials. Truly, one criterion by which any nation’s civilisation ought to be measured is how it treats citizens who have disabilities.

In our efforts to live and work inclusively at SEKUCo, we try to provide living and learning environment conducive for students with physical and sensory disabilities. Currently, 19 out of 1331 students have visual and aural challenges and we do our best to provide them with favourable living and learning conditions. We are proud and happy to be known for our efforts in promoting inclusion at university level. At the same time, by living and working together, non-disabled members of our community learn that people who have disabilities can achieve a lot if given the opportunity to prepare and express their talents. Lena Maria’s presence and performance at the Graduation ceremony was a concrete manifestation of this fact. Born 42 years ago with no arms and the left leg only half as long as the right one, she stunned graduates, governors and guests by demonstrating how she has managed to overcome her physical barriers, making the most of her gift of singing. Lena Maria’s unequivocal message was that if enabled, we can live up to our potentials regardless of our limitations.

Lena-Maria Klingvall singing during graduation

An important development on the national level which relates to the profile of SEKUCo is that during the last decade, policy and legislation formations in Tanzania have had a clear focus on disability and inclusion. In 2004, a National Policy on Disability was formed. Four years later, the Tanzanian Parliament ratified the UN Convention emphasizing the rights of persons with disabilities. In 2008 and 2009, a bill which was to focus on disability issues was prepared. It was tabled, discussed and approved in the Parliament on 13th April 2010. Given the short time span in which these developments have taken place, it has to be acknowledged that as far as policies and legislations safeguarding rights of people with disabilities are concerned, Tanzania is progressing swiftly. However, while plans emphasizing inclusion of people with disabilities are being made, the challenge is on the level of implementation. Unless we succeed to ensure that inclusive policies and legislations are interpreted in real life, they will remain meaningless. At SEKUCo, we believe that if there is to be a sustainable transformation of the livelihoods of people living in the margin, particularly those with disabilities, then all sectors of society must be taken up by well-educated women and men who think, plan, lead and implement as serving professionals.

Thank you for supporting Sebastian Kolowa University College which, through teaching, research and community outreach, strives to contribute towards building an inclusive society. It is only when we appreciate each other as members of humanity, with all our strengths and weaknesses, and regard each person as a potential contributor and receiver of material, intellectual and spiritual gifts, that we fully benefit from life.

Peace be with you!

Anneth

10th December 2010

 

(For more information about SEKUCo, please visit www.sekuco.org and www.elct-ned.org)