The Sunday Mail
WHEN Rokanda Romana Mutena dropped out of school, skipped the border and joined the war of liberation, she vowed that she would pursue higher education after independence.
“After the war, I told those close to me that I would go back to school and acquire a degree. Some of them laughed at me,” Mutena said.
But brushing aside a mountain of impediments, among them the trauma that is associated with war experiences and the fact that close family members were against the idea, Mutena pursued her studies.
Her decades-long dream finally came true last month.
At 59, she graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Counselling with the Zimbabwe Open University.
She urged women to work hard, adding that it is never too late to realise a dream.
“One has to fight against all odds. I urge women to believe in themselves and for them to know that one can successfully run both their professional and family lives,” Mutena said.
Born in 1960 in a family of eight, Mutena attended St Peter’s Mupururu Primary School from 1967 to 1974, before attaining a Junior Certificate at St Benedict’s Mission.
“I could not further my education because of the political order of the day. Racial discrimination was at its peak and the only way out was to sacrifice our lives and join the liberation struggle. I made it a point that I was going to further my education after the war,” said Mutena, whose Chimurenga name was “Eveready Magorira”.
But after the war, more obstacles stood in her quest to earn a degree.
“My husband was initially against the idea of me going back to school. I tried to convince him, but he was adamant that I should become a housewife,” she said.
For 10 years, she was a full-time housewife.
“It was a painful period. My husband worked at a hospital and I would envy the female staff members. I really wanted to be like them, but my husband was unyielding,” said Mutena.
As fate would have it, her husband was eventually forced to give in to her demands.
“He was involved in a near-fatal accident and that is when he eventually came to his senses. He realised that there was need for me to acquire some education and get a good job so that I could look after the family in the event of his passing on,” said Mutena.
After sitting for and passing five “O” Level subjects, Mutena went on to become a secretary.
Her husband retired in 1996, leaving her with the full responsibility of fending for the family.
In 2013, Mutena’s husband passed on, leaving her as the family’s sole breadwinner.
“My husband’s death pushed me to study further so that I could meet the family’s needs. From my experience, I opted to study psychology. My desire is to positively change people’s lives, especially those in distress situations,” the mother of four said.
She added: “Education is a critical tool of women empowerment. Both the Cairo and Beijing Conference themes confirmed this.”
She paid tribute to her four children, who gave her moral support during difficult times.
“It was not an easy road to finance my education whilst also paying fees for my children. I remained steadfast and dedicated to ensure my success,” Mutena said.
She said her achievements gave her hope for a better future.
After attaining a degree in the twilight of her life, Mutena said her achievements so far were a source of hope.
“Attaining a degree gave me satisfaction. The war veterans out there, women in particular, need to know that milestones are achievable. Education is key and it liberates, it gives one choices. I urge everyone to embrace education and to love it,” said Mutena.
For Mutena, the sky is the limit.
She is planning to embark on her master’s degree soon.