History was made since the founding of the University of Zimbabwe in 1953 when 18-year-old academically-gifted Maud Chifamba graduated with a Bachelor of Accountancy Honours yesterday.
She was among 3 667 graduates from nine faculties and the College of Health Sciences who were capped by President Mugabe at the institution of higher learning.
As of 2012, Chifamba was the youngest university student in Africa. She was born in 1997 in Zimbabwe and was accepted to the University of Zimbabwe to read for an accounting degree.
The teenage whizz-kid began attending in 2012 and also received a $9 933 scholarship from the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority Chairman’s Charity Fund. Chifamba lost her father when she was five, in 2002, before she started first grade.
By that time, her mother was suffering from cancer and could not care for her and her brother, two years younger.
This prompted Maud to fall under the care of a step brother, who at the time was residing at a plot he had been allocated during the land reform programme in Hunters Road, in between Kwekwe and Gweru, Midlands Province, Zimbabwe.
In 2003 she started her first grade at a school named Hurudza Primary school. In 2005, when she was in grade 3, during the mid year exams, she was mistakenly given a grade 4 exam paper in which she scored 100 percent. The following term during the same year, she requested a Grade 5 test paper in which she achieved the highest score.
She proceeded to Grade seven and she had 6 units. As Chifamba did not have money for high school she studied on her own(home schooled) and completed her Ordinary Level in just two years, that was 2009. She was later identified by the Ministry of Education and awarded financial assistance for her advanced level, upper six in 2011 and she scored 12 points.
Her mother died of cancer that year. After making headlines internationally, Chifamba was awarded a $9,993 scholarship by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority. In 2013 Chifamba scored distinctions at the University of Zimbabwe, where she was studying for her Bachelor of Accountancy Honours Degree.
She wrote her Grade seven examination at the age of 10 and her A-level at the age of 13. In 2007 Chifamba was named the best student under the most difficult conditions in the Midlands Province.
In December 2012, Chifamba was fifth on the Forbes Top 100 Youngest Powerful Women in Africa and she was also entered in the book of African Records as the youngest university student in the continent.
In October 2013, Chifamba was a delegate at the launching of a Terre des hommes campaign for girls in Rome, Italy. On 25 October 2013, Chifamba shared the high table at the International Day of the Girl Child celebrations with ministers and musicians. The event was hosted by UNICEF, held in Zimbabwe and she delivered a speech.
Faculties that graduated yesterday are Agriculture, Arts, Commerce, Education, Engineering, Law, Science, Social Studies and Veterinary Science. Of the graduates, 3 106 were conferred with first degrees, 535 with Masters Degrees and 25 with Doctor of Philosophy degrees.
Among the graduates, 25 were conferred with Doctor of Philosophy degrees and from those graduating with bachelors’ degrees, 149 had first class passes. For the first time in the history of the University, an 18-year old student was also conferred with her Bachelor’s degree in Accounting.
The graduate, Maud Chifamba, joined the University at the age of 14 years and completed her degree at the age of 18 years. This year’s graduation ceremony also saw the first pioneering graduates of the Marondera University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology.
In his address, UZ Vice Chancellor Professor Levi Nyagura, described this year’s ceremony as historic saying all these achievements were a first in the 61 year history of the University. He said the University will continue to engage with various stakeholders and strategic partners for continuous improvement and to remain relevant.
“We do recognise that our society is getting more complex with dynamic varying sets of requirements,” said Prof Nyagura. He said this presented a challenge that called for a re-thinking of the nature of the public service the university should provide.
Prof Nyagura said to that end, the University’s focus should be more on socialisation of knowledge by making sure that the university produced highly-qualified professionals and that the best research results were transferred to society.
He said the UZ was also open to capture the knowledge generated by society so as to sustain and further develop the intellectual and cultural base of the country.
“In this endeavour, we have committed ourselves to participate in national projects that empower our country to be competitive regionally, continentally and internationally,” said Prof Nyagura.
He said in addition, the University also reviewed its curriculum to promote innovation, application of science and technology and entrepreneurship. “Our focus is to produce graduates with a strong foundation in science and technology and with problem solving and analytical skills,” he said.
Some of the training incorporated include Forensic Science, Geospatial Intelligence and Aeronautical Engineering. Prof Nyagura said the university had also excelled in the development of GIS (Geographic Information System) and Earth Observation Sciences.
“The motivation for this development is the realisation that geographic sciences are key to human security including disaster and emergency response, crime and terrorism prevention, surveillance of diseases and disease vector outbreaks,” he said.
He said the University’s GIS and Earth Observation Centre had since been assigned by the African Union to carry out two major tasks. Nyagura said the University also embarked on a number of projects aimed at increasing infrastructure to meet the growing demand of education.
These projects include a building complex with 10 state of the art lecture rooms with a combined sitting capacity of 1000, a pharmacy laboratory that accommodates 130 students and an engineering computer laboratory fully equipped with 100 state of the art computers.
The University also constructed three additional lecture rooms with a combined sitting capacity of 200 and is currently constructing a 1 100-seater modern lecture theatre