Now is the time to tell a good story, not only because it has ended so well, but also because it is the end of four years of hard work, stress and suspense. And above all: It is another amazing story of God’s work!
This real-life story goes like this: Over five years ago Mukhanyo was informed by the authorities that its popular two-year Diploma in Theology had to be phased out. It could be replaced, though, by two separate Higher Certificates, at the same academic level, both of one year each: one in Bible Teaching and one in Church Ministry.
The catch, however, was that Mukhanyo had to design these certificates from scratch and once again apply for accreditation with the education authorities.
Here it must be remembered that accreditation in the African context is important to students. To them an official accreditation, authorised by the authorities, is a sine qua non. There are too many fly-by-night so-called colleges promising everything but disappearing with your money without notice, leaving the student without a qualification.
“O well”, we thought, “let’s go through the motions and apply”. So we did, and more than four years ago the application, together with everything it entails such as the broad outlines of the curriculum, was handed in at the Council for Higher Education (CHE).
What we didn’t know, was that it would be the beginning of a long struggle. But we did know that as from the beginning of 2020, no new diploma students would be allowed to be enrolled in the Diploma programme.
When we started the process, we told our partners, staff and churches that we expected it would take about two years – more or less the normal time it takes to have a new programme accredited by the CHE.
But the CHE had questions, demands and a protracted bureaucratic process. Site visits were conducted at Mukhanyo three times (2016, 2018, and finally 2019). And these inspections implied many things: Do you have the necessary in-house staff, academic and administrative? Are the numerous required policies in place and up to date? Does your library have all the necessary books, prescribed and others? Are your facilities up to standard for higher education? Are your finances such that the institution is sustainable? And so on.
Also a number of visits to the CHE’s offices were necessary to explain and plead. Several times the CHE made procedural mistakes that further delayed the process. Twice the application was partially rejected for unspecified reasons. Then there were new demands and questions. And, in the meantime, the deadline loomed closer and closer.
At present Mukhanyo has some 600 students actively enrolled in the Diploma. If no new students could enrol in either the old Diploma or in the new Higher Certificates, then it would certainly imply a serious decline in the number of students, which would hinder the ministry of many churches. Talk about living dangerously!
Of course, we pleaded with our Father in heaven, again and again. On 6 November, Mukhanyo held another special day of prayer to ask God to direct the process. The CHE met the day following to decide the outcome, presumably based on the report of the latest site visit and on their scrutiny of the latest responses submitted by Mukhanyo.
On 8 November, Mukhanyo was informed that the application was successful and that the new qualifications were fully accredited by the CHE. We thanked the Lord! We still do. The year 2020 will be a good year, because we have a good Lord!
The two Higher Certificates open the door to other opportunities. For example: a few elective modules will be added to one of the qualifications so that it will be more suited for training Christian teachers. And while formerly the two-year Diploma was a requirement for entrance into the BTh degree, now a one year Higher Certificate will do the same.
This was only the climax of many developments in the past year: The completion of considerable improvements to the buildings of the Johannesburg and Pretoria centres, the extension of the Rustenburg study centre into an advanced centre, and the initiation of a Durban centre which, Lord willing, will be launched in January 2020. Also, the BTh Honours programme had a small but sound start.
Additionally, Mukhanyo’s new Focus programme (unaccredited church-based training) has advanced to such a level that it will be fully functional in 2020 at many distance sites. The upgraded BTh Degree in Theology, with almost 100 students, now runs smoothly in several centres. And the roll-out of the upgraded Higher Certificate study guides is making good progress. Some of our international partners recently visited the Pretoria and Johannesburg centres and were very impressed by the improvements.
The Lord has been very good to us. He has made all this possible. So let’s honour Him for all He has done and continues to do for Mukhanyo. But we know it is ultimately not for Mukhanyo’s sake, but for His almighty greatness and honour. May we continue to serve Him the way He wants to be served!
Just a good story? No. It is a great story! “Clap your hands, all you nations, shout to God with cries of joy. How awesome is the Lord Most High, the great King over all the earth” (Psalm 47:1-2).