The 2016 Valedictorian

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Published: 28 June 2016

“Faith in God” was the overarching message in Muteto Mwangelwa’s valedictory speech; an account of reflection on the struggles and triumphs of his academic journey. It was one interesting discourse, and fascinatingly interlaced with depictions of God’s faithfulness. Quoting Proverbs 3:5-6 in his address, Muteto entreated fellow graduates and current students to put their trust in God, with a categorical declaration, “Nothing will be possible without the Lord.”

In the midst of trying financial circumstances, faith moved Muteto to apply for a place at Northrise back in September 2011. Faith also carried him through the challenges of juggling work and school, and the anxieties of managing to pay schools fees, let alone have transport money to attend classes. In spite of the seemingly impossible situation at home, the 2016 valedictorian enrolled at Northrise University in January 2012, against all odds financially, simply moving according to an inner conviction that God would have him pursue further education. At the time Muteto firmly decided on Northrise, he was working as a Data Entry Clerk at Layne Drilling, an American mining exploration company.  Working an entry position job and helping parents pay bills at home; he couldn’t be further from surety about how he was going to make it through the four years of university. Looking back, he says it was all a faith project; somehow God impressed it upon his heart to proceed with his quest for a university degree. Fortunately for Muteto, a colleague at Layne was already a happy graduate of NU; he introduced Muteto to Northrise and encouraged him to take up the challenge. Being a born again Christian and coming from a Christian home, Muteto connected with the Northrise vision, which cemented his conviction about enrolling. He felt NU was be a good fit; being a Christ-centered university and providing flexible evening programs to suit his personal state of affairs. Life could now start moving on! Muteto recollects how happy he felt when Northrise accepted him. By the time of this good news, Muteto had gathered up some savings to help him start off. Earlier in the year he had made a pact with a friend about being frugal with their earnings; their resolution could now pay off! All Muteto had to do was ramp up the savings in the months leading to the start of school.

Entry into university in January 2012 brought with it a new challenge for Muteto; working in the industrial area far from both Northrise campuses. It was hard to make it to class on time, it was expensive to do the trips and he was earning very little! At first, Layne allowed Muteto to leave work earlier whenever he had exams, but because of how frequently CPS exams come round, they eventually couldn’t sustain this arrangement. “At this point, as before,” Muteto recollects, “my faith in God helped; some gracious colleagues offered lifts to get me to campus after work, while some classmates dropped me off at home after classes in the night.” “It was a project of faith all the way,” he reiterates. “In fact, some family members couldn’t comprehend my decision to apply for university at such a time of financial difficulties at home.” But Muteto knew; a decent and reliable way to leave the struggles behind could only come through an education. So he pushed forward! Having completed high school in 2006 and waited six years to enter university, he understood the struggles of life without a college education. Even though Muteto worked for his dad for four years while waiting for a chance to enter university, it was a period of despair and frustration; he could only earn very little as the family business was barely surviving. Besides, Muteto had made several futile enrollment attempts in other colleges and universities already. He speaks of his feelings prior to coming across NU, “It felt like university wasn’t meant for me – like I would never get a chance to do uni.” Compounding his frustrations was also the fact that before his turn to attend university, finances in the family were not much of a problem – his parents had even managed to send his two older siblings to the USA for college. So the fact that he could not follow on a similar progression path began to affect him psychologically.

God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform! He certainly had a special plan for Muteto’s path, including the time at Layne Drilling. After working as a Data Entry Clerk for six months, Muteto got bored with the monotony of work and requested to be allocated new challenges; Layne recognized his potential and moved him into the accounts department. As an accounting minor at NU, his burgeoning Business Administration skills soon set him apart in the new role. Appreciating the effectiveness spurred on by his studies, Layne decided to take up the responsibility for Muteto’s tuition fees; they refunded everything he had paid in his second year, and committed to paying for his fees all the way to completion. “God was at work!” he affirms. Way before Muteto could graduate, Layne Drilling went further and promoted him to the position of Assistant Account, a position he still holds. Muteto attributes his excellent performance to the grace of God and the skills gained from NU.

In retrospect, Muteto wonders how he managed to juggle the rigor at NU and a demanding job, and actually come out with the highest GPA in his stream. He simply puts it, “It’s a miracle – I just don’t know how it happened. It was hard striving to come up with a way of doing school that couldn’t bring down my performance at work.” Asked about what he is taking away from the NU experience, Muteto pointed out how Northrise has unlocked in him an interest in accounting and financial markets. “Passing algebra as a first year student gave me confidence that I could handle mathematically involving courses,” says Muteto. Before Northrise, he never looked at himself as a man for numbers. And with regards to spiritual development while at NU, Muteto, being an evening student, did not get a lot of opportunities to be involved in the many faith-based activities that happen during day time, but he appreciates the class devotions and the Christian Thought and Practice courses he took. Muteto speaks of CTP courses helping in reconstructing his worldview. “The other important takeaway from NU is a strong mentality,” he points out, “Always thinking, always moving and having a sharpened mind – I don’t get to sleep if I haven’t completed a task.”

In addition to pursuing a Master’s degree in Financial Management, Muteto’s plans for the future involve finding work in the financial industry, venturing into advertising entrepreneurship and trying out farming. He is not yet certain how all the plans will work out, but recently, his savings enabled him to invest in a small piece of land where he hopes to start doing some small-scale farming.


Written by: Madalitso Kalombe


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