Monday, 3 June 2013

Remarks at St Ignatius College June 2013 Prize Giving Ceremony

St Ignatius College Chishawasha, 02 June 2013 Prize Giving Ceremony
Remarks by Takura Zhangazha. 

Representatives of the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture,
Father Phiri SJ, Rector of St Ignatius College
Chairperson of the School Development Committee
The Headmaster and Teaching Staff
Parents and Guardians
Administrative and Non Teaching Staff
The School Captain, Head Girl,  Prefecture and Sporting Team, Association Captains and Leaders
Colleagues, Comrades and Friends

Let me begin by thanking Fr Phiri, Father Rector of St Ignatius College, the School Development Committee, the Headmaster, Mr Madyangove, for extending an invitation to me to attend and be guest of honour at this important prize giving ceremony of this esteemed college and institution of learning.  As a former student of St Ignatius College, I am particularly aware of the importance of this event and prize giving ceremony not only because of the recognition that it gives to the sterling work done by parents, teachers, students and teaching staff over and about academic excellence.

 I must however confess to not having received as many prizes as my then fellow students who are largely now in the Diaspora either south of the Limpopo River or across oceans in Europe, north America and elsewhere.  

However, I am also happy to report back to this important gathering that my generation of former students in tandem with the words Ad  Maiorem Dei Gloriam (AMDG), has to the greater extent  remained true to working for the greater glory of God and our collective Zimbabwean society. This, in the various disclipines that we have invariably pursued both as result of the learning that we received here and furthered elsewhere. 

Indeed it has been a long time since I last sat in the last rows of St Francis Xavier classes from form one to four, and the arts section of the lower and upper sixth block. Time has also passed since I used to go to Mary Ward for what we referred to as ‘see me’ time then.

What has however remained indelible in my mind and I am sure in the minds of my then classmates (some of whom might  be here today in their capacity as parents/guardians) is the veritable truth that we were brought up on the values and principles of St Ignatius College, AMDG. I am therefore a son/child of this college. And for this I am grateful to my parents who saw it fit that I become a student here. Gratitude must also be extended to the teachers and all of the Jesuit and Mary Ward clerics that moulded us into not only academics but believers in the goodness of mankind and the imperative of contributing to the betterment of the societies in which we live. 

And back in the 90s we used to have a song that we used to sing in praise both of the college as well as our teachers. It was in Shona and titled, ‘Pamusoro pegomo panotenderera dzidzo’ ( translated to mean; ‘knowledge circulates on the mountaintop’). It’s a song that we used to sing with gusto on Parents Days. And again, as with all parents days, it was also sung in order to demonstrate our gratitude for the replenishment of our ‘tuck’ by our parents and guardians. 

But I must depart from my nostalgic ruminations and focus on the contemporary successes and challenges that the college celebrates or confronts respectively.  Over the years I am aware that the running of the college has been a difficult task. I am aware that keeping it afloat has been a challenging task and due to the reduction of government support to education across the country, the bulk of the burden of running the college has fallen onto the shoulders of parents/guardians and the Church. It is a task for which we must thank all stakeholders who have  worked hard to keep St Ignatius College up and running in these most trying of economic times. 

But even in these trying times we must always demonstrate conscientiousness, hope and belief that  through the hard work and commitment of all stakeholders, circumstances can and must get better.  Our optimism however must not be the stuff of dreams but of conscientious reality. I know that for most former students like myself, we tend to want to remember the college only when our own sons and daughters are either looking for places to study or we are involved in business that reminds us of market economics.

We need to revisit such a framework and demonstrate not only our gratitude but also our commitment to the values espoused by this institution by reviving our alumni association to make it more responsive to the needs of the college. With the necessary information availed to me and to my colleagues as former students, I pledge to participate in such a process and in collaboration with the current leadership of St Ignatius College.

Let me also turn to our parents who are here present. I am firmly aware of the difficult task it is to bring up children in difficult economic circumstances. My advice would be that parents, through the SDA must remain sensitive to the plight of other families. I say this because I remember a story that appeared in one of the newspapers last year. It was a story in which when a parent was asked about matters relating to payment of school fees, he replied in what I consider a rather callous manner and in accusation of other parents, ‘ if they do not have the money they should not bring their children to this school.’ I am glad to inform parents here present that this statement did not come from a parent at a Catholic or Jesuit School.

It is however a statement that made me remember that there are so many challenges facing parents and guardians at the moment that sometimes we may lose sight of the values and principles of St Ignatius College which would include empathy, not pity, for the difficult circumstances others may face.  Like the students here present, parents too are a community not only in relation to attending the calendar events of their children but also in relation to keeping the spirit and intentions of the motto Ignem Mtite in Terram alive not only for their children but in relation to the school, in and of itself. 

“Setting the world on fire” with ideas  is not just the obligation of the students who pass through the college, it is also the obligation of parents, guardians, teachers and non academic staff.
I mention the teachers and the non academic staff because they too are here to serve not only on the basis of assisting the students acquire the necessary academic qualifications but to grow the latter into people centered leaders in Zimbabwean society. And I will give an example of how I was personally molded into a people centered leader by Brother Fitz SJ, who advised us to assist the children of St Catherines in Newlands, Harare.  We used to sell freezits every weekend to raise money in order to purchase footballs and other learning based paraphernalia for the comrades at the same special school. 

Brother Fitz was at that time the bursar of the college, and apart from receiving notices from him concerning school fees, we learnt to view Zimbabwean society holistically. At that time, and I hope it remains the same today, we were taught by Brother Fitz that our education was not solely about the returns we got from Cambridge or Zimsec, but also about the society in which we live in. I must add that I also learnt some of my leadership skills from Br. Fitz SJ who was not only particular to a point but also taught me direct accountability through holding Annual General Meetings and keeping the finances in check for what we then referred to as the Young Christian Society
But in any event we are gathered here for the students and it is to them that I return to in this address. As I mentioned earlier in this address, I am a son of St Ignatius College by way of the decision of my parents to bring my elder brother, Fidelis Zhangazha, and I here. I am grateful they made that decision.

I remember the cross country races via Donhodzo, the football matches with St Peter Claver and the discos with our sisters at St Dominic’s Secondary School (particularly the slow tracks).
I also remember the special dinners we used to have particularly when Mudhara Harrison was the head cook on the silver jubilee of the College when the term ‘chitunha’ became so popular it made us salivate every time it was mentioned.

I am aware of the academic challenges and pressures that are faced by the students here present and those that will come after you. I remember the notice board at the beginning of the term, and how it was a ‘who’s who’ of the top ten in each class or alternatively an assessment of who was going to make it to university. A lot of years have passed since then. The universities are now many, and sometimes the professional aspirations are now ambiguous. But it remains important that you establish and work towards the attainment of your dreams to be an engineer, a journalist, a teacher, a medical doctor, an accountant (like my brother) a business person and/or a priest, nun like those who have assisted us thus far. In pursuing your dreams be careful not to get waylaid by the fashionable issues of the day.

I say this because back in the day we used to watch MTV, and also try and reinvent ourselves in the image of Will Smith especially after his extremely popular ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air’ TV series. We used to watch it in what was then referred to as the ‘Common Room’ or ‘TV Room’ on video cassette recorder. Some of us got carried away. We thought so long as we were watching the television, our parents will always look after us, even if we failed to meet our academic challenges.  Or even if we met them, we always wanted to leave Zimbabwe and claim academic and sporting excellence in other people’s countries.

The lesson that I have personally learnt, with the benefit of hindsight,  especially when I meet my St Ignatius College graduates, is that we should never forget the society in which we were brought up. Both by way of this college and also by way of the country in which we live. As an alumni of this college, my firmest advice given what I have seen and experienced in the aftermath of my gratefully qualifying for university is that while the world may be a difficult terrain to navigate,  it remains a terrain that can be conquered within the context of the values of St Ignatius of Loyola and St Mary Ward.  

In your studies, social activities and in respecting the aspirations of your parents on your behalf, please be cognizant of the society you live in and seek always to contribute to its improvement. Even if you are in form one, always keep in mind the end game of your education. An end game which relates to excelling  academically and socially.

Apart from making sure you strive to pass your academic exams, also pass your social ones. Join the chess club, the football, cross country, swimming, basketball, volleyball and netball teams. In doing so be conscious of the tremendous sacrifices your parents/guardians are making for you to not only be at this special institution but also in relation to your brothers and sisters who may be at other schools/universities  in the country.

In doing all of this, do not forget your shared academic, social and political environment. Next time you are on holiday always remember to thank God and to respect your parents for the tremendous sacrifices that they make for you to be here and for you to exist and continue to exist. Also remember that all those of other schools and students that you will compete with are your fellow Zimbabweans and while you will challenge and compete with each other you shall most certainly meet in the cauldron that is Zimbabwean society.

But above all, follow your dreams, believe in them and pursue them to the very end. I had dreams of being a recognized person for the common good in relation to my field. I am still pursuing these same said dreams and Insh Allah, I will achieve them.

Let me conclude my remarks by congratulating all of those that are recipients of awards today. I will also conclude by quoting the entirety of my favourite Catholic saints prayer. It is a prayer from St Francis of Assisi.
It is one that I hope that most of the persons here present will recall or will adhere to. And I must again confess to being very happy that the new Pope is of the same persuasion.
Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen
I thank you.