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UZ’s 14-year-old wonder kid ‘enjoying it’

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She grew up in grinding poverty, losing both her parents at a tender age, but 14-year-old whiz-kid Maud Chifamba has defied adversity and hardship to break academic records.
She grew up in grinding poverty, losing both her parents at a tender age, but 14-year-old whiz-kid Maud Chifamba has defied adversity and hardship to break academic records. Report by CNN

Against all odds, the extremely bright teenager has written history as last week she became the youngest ever university student in Zimbabwe – as well as the whole of southern Africa, according to education officials.

Maud, who was born on November 19, 1997, has just started her studies toward a Bachelor of Accountancy Honours Degree at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ). Her intellectual prowess and hard work have earned her a four-year scholarship of nearly $10 000 after she excelled at last year’s Advanced Level exams.

Now, one week into her new life at the university, softly-spoken Maud already feels settled.

  “I’m really enjoying it,” she says with striking modesty. “It’s better than what I expected. I’m just enjoying all the lectures.”

 

But before deservedly claiming a spot inside the university’s vast lecture halls, finding herself amongst much older students, Zimbabwe’s wonderkid had to overcome tremendous financial and social challenges.

 

Born to a poor family in the Hunters resettlement community in Chegutu, Maud lost her father when she was just five years old. Her mother also passed away last year. Her two brothers, who are general workers at a farm, were unable to pay the fees required to keep her at formal school, so Maud started studying vigorously at home all by herself.

 

Armed with determination, Maud put all her efforts into studying, embarking on a disciplined reading routine that lasted for several hours each day.

 

“I studied very hard,” she remembers. “For the biggest part of the day and even into the night. It really motivated me to work harder because there was no one to take care of me except myself in the future,” says Maud. “That was . . . a motivator for me to have something to do with my life.”

  Gifted with natural intelligence, Maud’s promising future was apparent from an early age. Her remarkable aptitude impressed her primary school teachers who decided to move her up from Grade 3 to Grade 6.

  Zimbabwe Revenue Authority commissioner-general Gershem Pasi, whose organisation is sponsoring her studies, said: “It’s phenomenal, especially if you consider that for her ‘A’ Levels she was not in formal school. She was just reading by herself at home and her brothers only managed to pay the examination fee.”

 

UZ dean of students Munyaradzi Madambi described Maud as a “very warm and polite young woman”, whose intelligence and maturity shines through.

 

Zimbabwe has an adult literacy rate of 92%, which is one of the highest in Africa, according to Unicef.