“Excuse me do you know Mistress Sanangurai, she was a teacher here in the 70s?”
I never met my mother-in-law, Ambuya Sanangurai, and beyond how she was described to me as a mother I never knew who she was, professionally. I had been told that she was a teacher but within a family set up her motherly and reproductive role tended to describe her more than anything else. Even the system then tended to play down the professional role of women to the extent that while my partner’s birth certificate mentions that his father was a teacher it does not mention that Ambuya Sanangurai was a teacher too.
Her career began in the 60s in Zambia where she taught until after independence when she moved back with her family to Zimbabwe and resumed her teaching profession.
Thirty-seven years later I have found myself in Zambia and the last thing I expected was someone asking me about Ambuya Sanangurai. Well, the question was asked and a conversation was had with a short, pot-bellied and white-haired man who is now a District Education Officer in the Ministry of General Education. He had known her as Mistress Sanangurai.
He sat me down and shared how his life had been impacted by my late mother in law. “She used to call all the children in the village and sit them down at her feet. There weren’t many books then so we had to share one book and if one was lucky they would get a chance to read a whole paragraph otherwise we mostly read a sentence each. This did not provide the best conditions to learn but it was all we had, she was all we had. I would not be the man I am today if she had not cared”
As that sank deep inside me, I wondered about the other children that had sat at Mistress Sanangurai’s feet, where they were and what they were doing. I am sure their lives were impacted too. His narration impacted me as well. The man who was sitting in front of me was telling me that the small actions that women do have the power to transform the world. That their contribution is not for the here and now but for posterity.
Most women have to justify their choice of vocation. Even in this day and age society still believes that the best place for a woman to be is home. While some women are happy to stay at home others would rather be out there changing the world through their calling. Their capacity to change the world should never be underestimated.
As I write this I not only remember Ambuya Sanangurai, I also remember Ambuya Sakala and Ambuya Chiwara my late maternal and paternal grandmothers (MHSRP), respectively, whose contribution to society is also unmatched. The writing would not be complete if I did not mention my own dear mother(s) whose fruits are the men and women I have had the privilege of meeting in different spheres of Zimbabwean life where they do amazing work towards the development of our dear nation.
Her legacy matters!