History of Arrupe College
Since 1954 young African Jesuits have studied philosophy and other humanities on our own continent, for the first forty years only in French in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. They and their elders dreamed of opening an alternative college. In the early 1990s Harare was chosen over sites in six other countries; a programme was designed which situates philosophy in a context of experience-based African studies including history, literature, traditional religions and education. Students learn to do research and more importantly learn to take and defend their own philosophical positions in response to burning issues of the continent.
Meeting in Harare a year before the programme began, the founders decided that being close to the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) was very important. They affirmed the Jesuit ideal of collaborating with lay colleagues; students learn from professors both lay and religious (Jesuits and others) and can participate in university activities.
In August 1994 AC was born with its first classes taught in what is now a wing of St. Anne’s Hospital. That November ground was broken at our permanent location four blocks from the UZ. In January 1996, the College moved from St. Anne’s; our first two groups of students began learning in our new classrooms. An excellent library was also founded at that time. In 1997, the Loyola Multipurpose Hall which serves as a dining hall, auditorium and for indoor games was completed. Two years later in 1999 four seminar rooms, AV classroom, staff common room, bookstore and offices for the African Forum for Catholic Social Teaching, offices for some part-time lecturers, for the journal Chiedza Light, and for the Students Association had been completed. The Chapel of the Holy Name was completed in 2001. In 2002 were added the computer centre, seven large classrooms, and an inner stairway for the library to expand the library to the first floor where classrooms had previously been located. The library now includes 90,000 volumes, 34 subscribed journals, and over 1,000 online journals. About 3,000-4,000 new and valuable books are added to the shelves every year.
AC admits both highly qualified and academically talented students who are capable of being moulded into men and women Africa and the world can be proud of. In 1998 Professor Carl Huber, long-time Dean of philosophy of the Gregorian University in Rome, Italy, participated as an external examiner in all sixteen hour-long oral comprehensive exams in philosophy of AC’s first class to graduate. After the last student had left, he smiled broadly, ‘They like to learn!’
Indeed, in an atmosphere of cooperation, not competition, AC students have continued liking to learn. External examiners from Britain and the USA have consistently reported that the best of AC students compared well with some best graduates of the best universities in those countries. Even though AC was founded primarily to train young Jesuits in Africa, from the beginning, the College has embraced a non-discrimination policy. As such, over the years, besides Jesuits, lay men and women, religious sisters and brothers, Redemptorists, Carmelites, Franciscans, Claretians, Anglican priests and seminarians and Methodist pastors have graduated from AC different programmes. AC graduates have easily been accepted into many reputable and highly competitive universities in the world.
Our first and second classes received Gregorian BA degrees in 1998 and 1999. In 1998 AC was admitted to an Associate relationship with the UZ, and from the year 2000 qualifying students began receiving the UZ’s BA Honours Degree.
AC’s students have come from twenty-one African countries, Jamaica, and Sri Lanka, with more than fifteen countries usually represented in a student body which presently numbers 122. From about twenty countries and indeed four continents, AC has continued to recruit some of the best qualified lecturers in the disciplines taught. Beyond AC they have contributed through teaching and serving as internal and external examiners to the institutions including the UZ. Over the years these teachers have come from as many as twenty countries, with representatives from four continents. Students and lecturers alike delight in our cultural diversity.
In order to meet the needs particularly of those students who did not desire to pursue a degree programme, in 2000, in the same scheme of Association with the UZ, a new programme was added leading successful candidates to a Diploma in Philosophy and Theology. In 2007 AC climbed higher when the UZ approved a three-semester MA in philosophy degree programme.
Some of the facilities at the College include the Chapel of the Holy Name which has beautiful paintings by the late Fr Anthony Berridge, S.J., broadband internet access including wireless, classrooms and seminar rooms fitted with state-of-the-art interactive projectors and white boards. Students enjoy and engage in sporting activities by using basketball, volleyball and tennis courts on site, swimming pools in nearby students residences and soccer fields nearby institutions.
AC is justly proud that in twenty-one years it has grown to become an exemplary school of African philosophy and humanities and through its students has touched the life of the Church all over Africa. This influence has been made possible through its association with the UZ which guaranteed its academic standing in an African context. Associate status lays the foundation for an academic institution to become empowered and eventually to give its own degrees and diplomas as an autonomous University. Such autonomy is the next development in AC’s history.