Feminist Chronicles: Diary 11: Dr Fay Chung

Those of you who may have read the profile of Beatrice Mtetwa may recall that she is Swazi by birth but Zimbabwean by marriage. Apparently, there is something about Zimbabwe that breeds women of courage and integrity as integral members of our society. Dr Fay Chung is another one of these women. In her case, the circumstances are a bit different because not only is she Zimbabwean by birth but also a veteran of the fight for Zimbabwe’s freedom from colonial repression. When you take a look at her picture do not be perplexed, obviously, she is Chinese by descent, her grandfather having been a peasant farmer in Nanpan Village near Guangzhou in China but she is very much Zimbabwean in her heart and soul.

Dr Fay Chung

Her forte is education, the education of women and children being the hot embers that burn in her heart. Being an educated woman herself holding a first degree and a Doctorate in Education from the University of Zimbabwe
an M.Phil in English literature from the University of Leeds as well as BA in Economics from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, it is not surprising that Fay Chung wants the same for her fellow Zimbabwean woman.

Fay Chung joined Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle in the 1970’s and was instrumental in developing a Research and Teacher Education programme for Zimbabwean (then Rhodesian) refugee schools and guerrilla camps in Mozambique and Zambia.

After Zimbabwe’s independence was declared in 1980, she was instrumental in the setting up of the Zimbabwe Foundation for Education with Production, an organisation that provided education for war veterans and returning refugee children from Mozambique and Zambia. She served in various capacities in the Zimbabwe Ministry of Education including as Deputy Secretary for Administration in the Ministry of Education. The highest post she ever held was that of Minister of Education, Sport and Culture between 1988 and 1993. She resigned from this post following ideological disagreements with the government. During her tenure as Minister of Education Zimbabwe reached an unprecedented 95 % primary education rate, vastly improved secondary education and developed a progressive curriculum for teacher training institutions.

She has worked with the UNICEF as Chief of the Education Cluster in New York from 1993 to 1998.  She was also the first Director of the UNESCO International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa (IICBA) based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, a position she retired from in 2003. She served as an honorary special advisor to the Organisation of African Unity now the African Union.

In 2006, Fay Chung’s book “Reliving the Second Chimurenga: Memories from Zimbabwe’s Liberation Struggle,” was published. It was the first initiative of its kind by a Zimbabwean woman, chronicling her experiences and perspectives on the liberation struggle as well as the power struggles within the political parties of the day. Although this book has been discredited by some reviewers as being at odds with historical facts it still remains a necessary tool facilitating dialogues and reflections on the struggle for independence. Coming from a woman, she paints a vivid picture of the harsh living conditions in the refugee camps of Mozambique from a gendered perspective, and giving specific details on the challenges that children faced, something rarely reflected in post conflict literature.

Having noted the underrepresentation of women in tertiary institutions and recognising the need to cultivate progressive female leadership, Fay Chung cofounded, together with other Zimbabwean women, the Women’s University in Africa in 2002. She serves as the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees for that university. She is also a founder of the Forum for African Women Educationalists and the Association for Strengthening Higher Education for Women in Africa.

Her current preoccupation is the renewal and restoration of Zimbabwean institutions in her capacity as the Director of ‘Envision Zimbabwe.’ Envision makes use of research, discussion, policy and strategy development to address Zimbabwe’s multi-sectoral social, economic and political challenges. It also promotes good leadership and accountability at all levels.

Dynamite indeed comes in small packages!

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