Zimbabwean teenager Maud Chifamba, who made headlines in 2012 after enrolling at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) at the age of 14, has made history once again! Last week, the 18-year-old walked across the stage in a cap and gown to receive a Bachelor’s of Accountancy Honors degree, becoming the youngest graduate in the university’s 63-year history.
Zimbabwean President and University Chancellor Robert Mugabe officiated the ceremony and presented degrees to Chifamba and her graduating class of 3,666 students.
A day after graduating, Chifamba wrote about her brief interaction with the president on her Facebook page:
Chifamba’s latest academic feat is a testament to her gifted abilities, which have allowed her to finish her undergraduate studies at a time when most students are just joining university.
Despite a tough upbringing, Chifamba’s determination in the face of adversity serves as an inspiration to never give up.
She lost both her parents in a span of less than a decade and lack of funds forced her to study at home for part of high school.
The countless setbacks and speed bumps she encountered along her journey only made her more determined to use education as a way to escape her circumstances. Her hard work and perseverance was eventually noticed by the Ministry of Education, which awarded her with scholarships to finance her education from the primary to tertiary levels.
Women Leading the Charge
Chifamba believes these achievements, brought about by her brains rather than beauty, are significant in bridging the gender divide in Africa.
In her Facebook post she wrote, “Goal 1 accomplished, which was to prove that when it comes to academic capabilities, with the right attitude girls can do as much as boys or even more. I believe God did not give us brains based on our gender. No to stereotyping.”
Academic empowerment is a tool for eliminating poverty and the gender gap prevalent in Africa. Chifamba’s success will go a long way in helping justify why educating girls is so important for the development of the continent.
“Studies show that youth female literacy levels in Africa remain lower than males, but this is not the case in Zimbabwe.”
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the youth female literacy level in Zimbabwe was 92 percent last year, while the youth male literacy level was around 90 percent. Literacy among youth aged 15 to 24 years of age is defined as the ability to communicate by either speaking, reading, writing, and listening.
Perhaps this high female literacy level in Zimbabwe explains why women have been leading the academic pack in the country. For instance, the late-Sarah Chavunduka was the first female African student to be admitted to UZ in 1957 and just five years later, Dr. Vida Mungwira became the first female medical doctor in the country.