AT the age of 35 she was undoubtedly the oldest Form Three learner at Matopos Research Secondary School in Matabeleland South province where some of the teachers were probably younger than her and yet it was not something important to consider for the academically determined now 37-year-old Mrs Nancy Mutero.
What was important was the ambition she harboured of being an agriculture extension officer — a dream that is already in the incubator after she passed five O-level subjects in the recently announced Zimsec 2023 examination results.
For the past two years, she would wear the school uniform, a blue blouse, black skirt, black pair of school shoes (the girls’ three leaves type) and carry a satchel of books on her back. She would do all the required drills without flinching and on holidays would share notes with her son since they were on the same academic level although at different schools.
Her decision to go back to the formal education system after more than two decades was not just for the fun of it, it was inspired by her need to upgrade her life and become a professional. Getting discouraged by those around her including her husband did not deter her although she said she felt discriminated on her first attempt at a private college in Bulawayo where she was made a subject of jest, scorn and ridicule by other learners.
Mrs Nancy Mutero’s O-level results
“I felt discriminated. Some learners would tell me to go to the village and grow groundnuts or rear chickens and ducks while some would squeeze the age issue into me, telling me to go and do hare and baboon folktales for ‘my’ grandchildren which I don’t even have. It was so bad and difficult to ignore,” she said.
Mrs Mutero said the discrimination that she faced at school was testimony that the system was not yet ready to accept the Government policy for schools to accept back those that would have been affected in their learning cycle by pregnancy and or other disturbances.
She, however, refused to let the negative comments stand in her way. Instead she changed schools and enrolled at Matopos Research Secondary School where she started Form Three in October 2022.
“I was once a general hand at the Matopo Research Station so the community there knew me very well. The atmosphere was a lot different from the one I had experienced earlier on. Initially, I wanted to start in Form Two but school authorities said it was okay for me to start doing Form Three, and I did just that. I scored As in History and Heritage Studies and three Cs in Combined Science, English Language, and Agriculture. I hope to enrol at Esigodini Agricultural College as I had always wanted to be an agricultural extension officer,” she said.
An ecstatic Mrs Mutero said she was failing to sleep since the release of the results a fortnight ago as she could not believe her achievement.
“I am so happy, I still cannot believe it, I have been failing to sleep. I now want to go to Esigodini Agricultural College and train to be an agriculture extension officer, I have always wanted to be an extension officer and I have a passion for farming. I keep large batches of chickens at my house,” she said.
She thanked her husband and children for giving her the strength to continue with her studies saying her husband suffered some humiliation when people saw her clad in her school uniform. She also paid tribute to her teachers who never gave up on her when she seemed not to grasp some concepts in class
“People would laugh at him (husband) but he never got offended, he would carry my satchel and accompany me to school when he was around. My son goes to Matopo Mission, when I met his boarding master the other day and I was in uniform, they were surprised that I was also in school. It was financially straining for my husband paying all the fees and examination fees for me and the children but here we are,” she said.
She encouraged women who may think they are past the age of returning to school to fulfil their dreams, saying it was never too late to study. Mrs Mutero also said she was grateful to her mother-in-law who was available for assistance in the home during examination times. Her son Victor also sat for the same examinations and passed nine subjects.
“We sat for some similar exams, he failed Agriculture but I passed it, he has a C grade in History and I have an A, Heritage Studies he scored a B and I scored an A. We used to go for extra lessons together. I am happy we all passed,” she said.
Her husband, Mr Marshall Mpendulo Mutero said he was excited about his wife’s achievement although he was sceptical at first.
“When she first said it I asked why, and she just said she felt it was time to go back to school. She had tried to do crash lessons twice but gave up along the way, I was not ready for a third time where she would give up again but when I realised she was serious, I supported her. The first days were humiliating, I must say. I had to accompany her to school when she started at Herentals and pick her up again in the afternoon and people would stare at us. It was embarrassing at first,” he said.
Mr Mutero, a human resources practitioner said people questioned the rationale behind the idea of allowing his wife to go back to class 22 years later.
“Even our kids at home made fun of her. She always made me pack their lunch in the mornings when they were all going to school, it was fun though. However, she has demonstrated to us that if you aim to do something, nothing can stop you. She did not lose focus, it is also a lesson to our children, to fulfil their dreams and complete whatever they ought to do,” said Mr Mutero.
He urged men to support their wives whenever they have dreams rather than shoot them down.
He acknowledged that the world was transforming and women were improving themselves academically.
“My wife has motivated men and women at the research centre to enrol in classes, they have registered and a class was introduced last week for senior learners all because of her. Others were doubting she would pass and they said they would only return to school if she passed and yes she passed, I am proud of her,” said Mr Mutero. – Sunday News