WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH INTERVIEW: Prof Sadza speaks life, career and opening the Women’s University in Africa

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By Alois Vinga

NEWZIMBABWE.COM’S Alois Vinga (AV) caught up with Professor Hope Sadza (HS), an astute academic, entrepreneur and former top civil servant who crafted the Public Service Commission (PSC). She is also the co-founder of the Women’s University in Africa (WUA).

Below are excerpts of the conversation which touches on her upbringing, career, dreams for the girl child and journey to form one of Zimbabwe’s highly reckoned Universities.

A.V: How are you Prof Sadza? In a previous interview, you shared a very touching story on how you were first named “No Hope” and later renamed “Hope”. Would you mind resharing the story?

H.S: My mother was sick when she was carrying me.  She loved to tell the story of how I was born.  She gave birth to me in the house on 26th November 1944, our neighbour was the midwife who helped with the delivery process. My mother was concerned about how tiny I was!  “No hope” became my name.  After three months, I was growing and feeding well, my parents started calling me Hope and that’s how my name changed.

My father Misheck Bakasa was born and grew up in Marondera, Chiota Communal Area. He worked as a taxi driver and later ran his fleet of taxis. My mother, Sarah Mugugu was the daughter of an evangelist, Josia Perry Mugugu.

My family was the backbone of my life. I was born and raised in Mbare by both parents.  We grew up very close, telling stories every night with my mother who was a teacher, a broadcaster and a Junior School Headmistress at George Stark School in Mbare.  She worked at the Mbare Studio on two programmes – “Nguva Yevana Vadiki” and a radio play where the cast talked about family values.

My father died in 1972 after battling with liver dysfunction and my mother in 2002 succumbing to breast cancer.

A.V: On the academic front, many women locally and abroad revere you as a role model. What qualifications do you hold?

H.S: Below is a list of qualifications I hold:

Ph.D – University of Zimbabwe, 1997 (Thesis:  Critical Organisational Problems of Administering and Managing Social Development in a newly-independent Public Service: The Case of Zimbabwe)

Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa) In Gender and Academic Leadership, Zimbabwe Open University, 2015

M.A. (Public Administration)               University of Missouri, Columbia, USA, 1980

Bsc (Public Administration)                University of Missouri, Columbia, USA, 1978

Advanced Book-keeping                    Evelyn Home College, Lusaka, Zambia, 1972

Secretarial Teaching Diploma            Kilburn Polytechnic, London, 1975

Primary Teachers Diploma                Waddilove Teachers College, Marondera

A.V: Wow! All these qualifications. Can you share the experiences you went through in your studies both locally and abroad?

H.S: I was accepted into the University of Missouri which is located in the State of Missouri in the United States of America.  The University had a student population of about twenty-four thousand.  I was enrolled under the Faculty of Political Science and Management.   Missouri was a university with good teaching and research facilities. It awarded bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees and doctorates.  It was a place where students’ abilities had a chance to flourish and mature through access to knowledge from the vast library space, books and research offered there.

The city of Columbia was a university city with communities made up of lecturers, professors, students and families of the university community.  In comparison with big cities like New York, California or Washington, it was not “fast” in terms of life.  For the young African students’ life was in New York – they yearned for holidays to visit the big cities.  In Missouri, there was summer school where Americans and other nationalities went to their homes for three months.  Those who wished to continue having classes were given a chance.  I never went on a three months holiday but stayed to study in order to complete my studies early.

Being in the Political Science and Management faculty, I had dreams of joining politics from an informed base.  Debates in class and university associations were always around the future, what we would do when we got back to a new Zimbabwe! In groups, we were starry-eyed about our role in shaping the economic and political space into fast-track development and taking our place in the overall development of Africa. The university, in the city of Columbia, had a substantial influence on me. The world from which people’s visions and indeed my vision of the world of political science was moulded. I witnessed the unfolding of a new vision of life, a new perspective of life and a yearning for more information on politics.

There is a difference between life as a mature student and conducting oneself amongst young people coming straight from high school. The young boys and girls in first-year university life were looking for fun and games. Saturday nights became night clubbing and “dancing the nights away”. The young Zimbabwean men and women would consider me as “old” and missing out on the nightlife. I was studious, I entered university after having trained as a teacher, taught school and went to college in Zambia and had no time to waste.

A.V: Did you have the urge to start up new things in your childhood? Any examples of what you established in those years?

H.S: Passion for education and teaching has been my core interest.  As a little girl, I would gather little girls in our neighbourhood and let them sit around our peach tree and say, now today we are going to learn how to pray.  I would recite my mother’s prayer for food and let them repeat after me.  After a few days, I would teach them the simple vowels AEIOU and think of names starting with those letters.  It was fun. 

A.V: Now turning to your career, which organisations did you serve and in which capacities?

H.S: I have been worked with the following organisations;

Founder and Vice Chancellor of the Women’s University in Africa – 2000 to 2020 December. Now retired.

1990 – 2000 Public Service Commissioner – Deputy Chairperson (Presidential Appointment)

1989 – 1990 Zimbabwe Parastatals Commissioner (Presidential Appointment)

1987 – 1989 Commissioner of the Public Service Review Commission, Government of Zimbabwe

1983 – 1987 Head of Human Resources Management Division, Zimbabwe Institute of Public Administration Management (ZIPAM) (NB one of the three founding directors of the Institute)

1981 – 1982 Part-Time Lecturer, Political Science and Public Administration Department, University of Zimbabwe

1980 – 1982 Registrar of Apprenticeship Authority: Ministry of Manpower Planning and Development.

1973 – 1975 Personal Assistant to the Human Resources Director. G.E.C. London Headquarters; Mindeco Mining Company 1972

Assistant Accountant, Mt. Makulu Agricultural Research Station, Lusaka, Zambia.

1964 – 1965 Primary School Teacher, Ministry of Education.

A.V: After all that experience helping develop the public service, you still proceeded to establish WUA. What really kept you going?

 H.S: After 20 years of strenuous public service work, I felt it was time to say goodbye and enter the new road of giving birth to the Women’s University in Africa.  I felt I had done a job with joy and satisfaction.  I also felt I had seriously addressed the identified inadequacies of modern machinery.

The performance had to be identified which would bring up results for increased productivity. I had spent months thinking of retiring early so that I could pursue in earnest, what my vision was, what my passion for education was for the women of Zimbabwe and Africa as a whole, and what part would be played by those who were educated. The women of Zimbabwe, and indeed the women of Africa, had been side-lined in terms of contributing to the development of their countries.

They had not been identified or indeed given the opportunity to play a pivotal role in a developmental role, nor in choosing an area of their choice and therefore control the critical areas of development.

Men had decided that the role of women was in the kitchen, in kindergarten school, in primary school and the domestic science classes. What’s more, these women wanted and enjoyed taking their foisted roles in these areas. What a warped sense of decision-making this was.

There was no deep research carried out to arrive at this decision.  Did these women state that they in actual fact wanted to be train drivers, wanted to be doctors (and not only nurses), but they also wanted to be social scientists and wanted to take part in political discussions?  They wanted to present their thoughts on how the newly independent Zimbabwe or other African countries would be governed and run.  Questions were asked on how come women had been in the trenches, fighting for an independent nation on the battlefield and why they were now not allowed in higher positions in the new government.

With the experience I had in management training, the experience of hearing the thoughts of women in the interview rooms, and what women preferred to do in the government, I knew deep down what these women wanted was further education at the degree level and thereafter be considered capable to run the affairs of Government.

A.V: How many students did you enrol in your first intake at WUA?

 H.S: The first enrolment had 147 students which comprised 124 women and 23 men.

A.V: Any notable people who assisted you during these historic journeys?

 H.S: Special mention goes to my  WUA  co-founder Dr Fay Chung and these ladies who helped me couch a road map for a Women’s University; Tracey Mutaviri, Rudo Gaidzanwa, Anna Mupawaenda. This group would discuss areas of study like where to get money, how to get money etc.  As we continued to meet at different places to plan, we differed in process, got excited and even gave up at times!

A.V: Thank you for your time Prof Sadza.

H.S: Most welcome Alois.