OBIRTUARY : BY JERI JURO
We sit expectantly on the rough wooden chairs in the lecture room on the second floor of the faculty building.
We are strangers to each other, so there is very little talk as we each muse over the semester teaching and learning programme clearly typed on white sheets of paper boldly labelled “COURSE OUTLINE”.
The excitement of having been admitted to study for a Bachelor of Education degree in English at one of the country’s prestigious institutions of higher education is tangible in most of us. We all dream about the kind of knowledge that we are going to acquire and how the knowledge is going to change our perception of education in general and teaching in particular.
The tutor we are waiting for while we fumble with our papers and other curious belongings most of which ultimately prove to be a collection of hot air, useless college belongings bought by enthusiastic college recruits, is Professor Rosemary Moyana .
I look at my equally petrified colleagues who I guess are wondering what kind of a tutor a professor is.
Most of us hail from communities where we have been told that professors are people who have devoured every kind of book, big and small, people with some talismanic brains that can read into the minds of others with ease. We expect, on this day, to meet the Oxford English dictionary personified, so we have small notebooks in which to write new high sounding words and phrases.
Most of us believe that people who are well-read must demonstrate their skill and competence by belching out every kind of exotic words.
The clicking sound of her shoes announces her presence in the corridor. At last our expectations are answered.
The professor doesn’t disappoint as she enters the room. All her fingers are decorated with rings of different shapes and sizes. She has a golden necklace that fits very well with the colours of her blouse. Her black African hair tells us that there was something natural and African about the well-read and travelled professor of English.
We looked at her with awe as we suspected that each of her actions was a result of critical analysis and supposed to send a message to us.
Alas, we were wrong in our wild anticipations and expectations of overt and covert professorial behaviour.
It slowly dawned on us that the highly-esteemed professor, who is also the dean of the Faculty of Education, was just like us in many ways.
She moved around the room greeting each one of us as she enquired about our families and why we had chosen to pursue studies with the University of Zimbabwe. It was easy to see that she was human and down to earth. Her laughter punctuated the room as she shared jokes with each of us. We were shocked on this day because, in our wild imagination of a professor, it was not proper for a fountain of wisdom and embodiment of knowledge to listen to our stories because there was nothing important that we could say to a professor.
It was on this very first interaction with Moyana that we began to slowly develop new perceptions about the difference between being well-read and being educated.
I am sure, on this first day, besides her dressing, Moyana failed to meet our basic expectation of how a professor should demonstrate some rare qualities. On our scale of expectations, we wanted to hear strange English words. No. Not from Moyana. We expected long sermons about the various universities that she went to and the numerous degrees that she has acquired.
No. Not from Moyana. We expected a long list of dos and don’ts. No. Not from Moyana. Instead, she wanted to hear from us.
Throughout our interaction with her on this day, she made us believe in ourselves, that each one of us has a story that is worth listening to, that each one of us has an obligation to listen to the person next to us because their story is more important than ours.
She was an embodiment of true humility and joy. When goodness walks on two; when it has eyes and ears; when goodness has a mouth and can speak; when goodness is a learned professor, the result is humility in its purest form.
When goodness is personified, those who are privileged to interact with such a spring of wisdom will surely enjoy the warmth of undiluted ubuntu.
Moyana would naturally allow love to flow like a river of fresh honey whose source was some high mountains somewhere in the land of angels.
Attending her lectures was exceedingly rewarding. She would make sure that we discovered the best in us.
Moyana had the rare talent of appreciating each of us as she never stopped telling us that we could still do better in everything.
Such teachers are rare. Teachers who always see a glass half-filled with water as a glass half-full and not as half-empty have some amazing tinge of optimism and they always radiate some telling ambiance of virgin professionalism that naturally attracts people.
Moyana was such kind of a teacher. She exuded some aura of unmitigated sense of positive humanity that endeared her to everyone on the campus. She never demanded respect, she just earned it.
We could not even give her a nickname. There was no need for one because there was nothing bad that we could say about her.
I am sure even if we were going to give her one, she would clap hands and laugh her lungs out about it.
The cold and ruthless arms of death robbed us of one of the finest teachers of our time. The amount of grief on her family, fellow administrators at the University of Zimbabwe, former students and all her friends and neighbours is beyond measure.
When death leaves all of us poorer in different ways, when circumstances of our time deny us the chance to lay beautiful flowers on her final resting place, when all we can do is grunt painfully under the merciless vice-like grip of the inescapable claws of fate, when all we can do is write messages on different social media platforms, we certainly draw hope in that Moyana joined the league of angels where her soul will surely rest in peace.
We salute you Prof.
No amount of eulogy can ameliorate the pain caused by your departure.
We hopelessly grope in darkness as we look for answers to the many questions that we may have. We thank you for teaching us by example.
We hope to meet you in the yonder world, at the confluence of glory and peace.
Perhaps there, our pain shall be assuaged.
Rest in peace Queen of Peace!