Coronavirus lockdowns worldwide have not only complicated students’ abilities to learn, conduct research, and graduate on time, but also threatened schools’ abilities to pay faculty and staff, care for students stranded on campus, and reopen in the future. These educational challenges, shared by theological institutions around the globe, prove all the more dire in the Majority World.
Although COVID-19 has not spread as widely in African countries as in the United States, Western Europe, and China, the unpredictable and highly contagious virus still poses serious risks, especially in regions lacking adequate healthcare access. Several African governments have responded quickly by ordering lockdowns, but these restrictions endanger fragile economic systems across the continent.
Through the Vital SustainAbility Initiative (VSI), SCHOLARLEADERS collaborates with theological schools in Kenya, Nigeria, and Ethiopia to strengthen strategic plans for long-term sustainability and missional focus. This week, please join us in prayer for the schools in our VSI Ethiopia Cohort: Evangelical Theological College, Ethiopia Graduate School of Theology, Mekane Yesus Seminary, and Ethiopia Full Gospel School of Theology. All four schools are located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital.
The second most populous country in Africa, Ethiopia wields tremendous cultural and economic influence in East Africa. Christianity has a long history in Ethiopia, possibly since the first-century conversion of the unnamed courtier in Acts 8. Today, 63% of Ethiopia’s 109 million people are Christians and 34% are Muslims. Over 32 million Ethiopians are part of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the largest Oriental Orthodox Church in the world. Another 14 million identify as Protestants, most of whom belong to the Mekane Yesus Church, an Evangelical Lutheran denomination, and the Kale Heywet Church, an Evangelical charismatic denomination.
Please intercede with us for our partner schools in Ethiopia. Common needs include:
1) Financial provision for paying faculty and staff, who face imminent lay-offs;
2) Dependable food supplies for students and families remaining on campus;
3) Capacity to implement online learning, including through mobile data, since students and faculty alike may lack computer access;
4) Workable plans for surviving prolonged loss of tuition-derived income.
Last month, Dr. Bruke Ayele Asale, President of Mekane Yesus Seminary (MYS), wrote to us to share how the pandemic has affected his school. In addition to working with Bruk and other leaders at MYS through VSI, SCHOLARLEADERS supported Bruk, through LeaderStudies, for his PhD in Biblical Studies at the University KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.
Since 2017, Bruk has led MYS, the official theological institution of the Mekane Yesus Church, the largest Protestant denomination in Ethiopia, with over 8.7 million members worldwide. MYS has approximately 1,400 students enrolled in its College of Theological Studies, College Management and Leadership, and School of Music and Media.
Bruk shares the following message:
Thank you so much for remembering us at this critical time. We are praying for the US, as the pandemic worsens. Here in Ethiopia, a time of national fasting and prayer was officially declared for the past month. The number of cases is growing here, as well, though they seem to be at a much smaller scale in comparison to many other African countries.
At MYS, we sent students home in March, following the government’s order. We have been working on how to continue the second semester. We had been hopeful that students could return in a couple of weeks, but that is completely impossible now, and things are becoming more and more critical.
COVID-19 has impacted MYS in significant ways:
1) Sanitation Supplies: MYS has 200+ permanent and contractual workers. We had purchased and distributed some sanitizers, soaps, and masks for both office and home use. However, we definitely need more as the pandemic worsens.
2) Food Scarcity: We also purchased and distributed wheat flour, teff flour, pasta, and oil to our workers. If things continue like this, we may need to do this once a month.
3) Unanticipated Expenses: When we sent students home, we provided them with transportation and food allowances. All these expenses add up to a significant amount.
4) Technology Needs: All faculty members are now working from home, and the government has ordered that teachers continue teaching from home. We are in a very desperate situation, since the vast majority of our faculty members do not have laptops. This is a very critical and acute need. We are also in need of teleconferencing equipment, so we can continue offering lectures.
5) Faculty and Staff Salaries: If the situation continues like this, almost all of our income, which is derived from students’ tuition fees, will be stopped. Then, we will be unable to pay the salaries of our faculty and staff. We are not sure what we will do in this worst-case scenario. It would be a big blow to us, affecting whether we can continue as an institution.
6) Makeshift Hospital: The government has asked us to prepare and reserve our soccer field for emergency use, as an outbreak is expected. The soccer field is adjacent to the living area of our faculty and staff, and it will require fencing, paving, and the construction of a small bridge over a ditch. We were also asked to provide tents, beds, mattresses, and food supplies.
These are some ways we are being impacted by the coronavirus. Let me also share with you Luther’s comments, which I’ve found very helpful:
“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me, and I have done what he has expected of me, and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.” – From a pamphlet, “Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague,” by Martin Luther (1527).
Whatever happens, the Lord is in control. Keep us in your prayers.
Bruk Ayele Asale
President of Mekane Yesus Seminary
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia