Marc Ravalomanana, president of the Republic of Madagascar, a developing nation off the southeastern coast of Africa, will be on the campus of Abilene Christian University Feb. 5-6 visiting the 24 Malagasy students sent to ACU by the government of Madagascar to help develop future leaders for the nation. President Ravalomanana will speak at a public luncheon Feb. 6 in the ACU Teague Special Events Center.
Doors to the Teague Center will open at 11:30 a.m., and guests should be seated by 12:30 p.m. Tickets for the luncheon may be purchased by phone by calling 325-674-2824. The cost of tickets will be $10 for adults and $5 for students. Tickets may be picked up in the Hardin Administration Building, Room 200, prior to the event or at the Will Call Table in the Teague Center on the day of the event. For security reasons, seating is limited, and there will be no ticket sales on the day of the event. Tables of eight may be purchased for $80.
The 24 Malagasy students came to ACU through a unique scholarship program funded by the Malagasy government in partnership with World Bank. The arrangement came about during a visit to Madagascar in 2003 by Dr. John Tyson, ACU vice president for development. Tyson was visiting the country on the first trade mission sponsored by the U.S.-Madagascar Business Council.
“My message was simple. If the Republic of Madagascar was truly interested in developing the country and making its way out of poverty,” Tyson said, “then it would be important to invest in its most precious resource, its people.”
Ravalomanana asked Tyson about the university he represented. Ravalomanana is a Christian businessman and was excited to learn of ACU and its mission to educate students for Christian service and leadership throughout the world.
“He banged his fist on his desk and said ‘That’s just the kind of place I’m looking for,’” Tyson said.
“The key to the development of Madagascar is having educated men and women with character and leadership,” Ravalomanana said. “That is why I sent these students to ACU. I trust the administration of this university. I know they can help us.”
Just nine months later, after securing support from World Bank, receiving over a thousand applications and interviewing numerous students, 24 Malagasy men and women left their home nation, most for the first time, and began their college education at Abilene Christian.
The students are from 15 regions of the Republic of Madagascar, and their tuition for the next four years is paid by the government of Madagascar. Students who accepted the scholarship agreed to return to their home nation for at least two years upon graduation, according to Madagascar’s Minister of National Education and Scientific Research, Dr. Haja Razafinjatovo.
“We want these students to come back with a different mentality – a mentality of entrepreneurship, a mentality of leadership,” Razafinjatovo said. “I think Abilene Christian is one of the best places for them to be for their higher education. A Christian college is a plus for these students.”
Madagascar is an island nation of 17.5 million people and was a colony of France for nearly 70 years, gaining independence in 1960. Ravalomanana was Mayor of Antananarivo, the capital city, and was elected president in 2002. The main industries of Madagascar are agriculture – fishing and forestry – and textiles.
“Abilene Christian University is an ideal opportunity for this country,” said Mamy Rabe, a businessman in Madagascar and president of the Madagascar-U.S. Business Council. “There are not enough universities with Christian values, and those values – honesty, integrity, character – are what we need in business and in our nation.”
While visiting ACU, Ravalomanana will spend time with the Malagasy students, speak at a community-wide luncheon, take a campus tour and speak to other ACU students.
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