“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
I was born in exile. It was 1973, and my parent’s birthplace, Zimbabwe, was deep in the throws of a critical struggle for independence. My father and mother, like many other patriots, who sacrificed several conveniences, had joined the fight for freedom. Given my father’s role as a constitutional lawyer for the liberation movement, my parents could not live in Zimbabwe (then called “Rhodesia”) without placing themselves at risk of detention, imprisonment or other worse fates. They therefore settled in Zambia, the country next door, even though it meant being separated from family and friends and living under the constant anxiety of raising a young family in such uncertain circumstances.
My father, David, had deep knowledge of the law and human rights, which enabled him to frame ingenious arguments in support of democracy, equality, and economic empowerment for the Zimbabwean people. He was also very wise. He understood that there comes a time when men and women must take a stand against injustice and oppression and somehow create a path toward freedom and opportunity.
I was only six years old in 1979, but I remember being overtaken by incredible delight the day my father announced with an irrepressible smile that we would be going home. Victory was won! Freedom had come! Sacrifice had fulfilled its good work. The days that followed were a blur of activity and in what seemed almost like an instant, I found myself holding ever so tightly to my father’s hand as we carefully descended the stairs of the airplane that had carried us from Zambia. Our feet, once alighting on Zimbabwean soil, were immediately buoyant with jubilant anticipation. As new immigrants in our homeland, my siblings and I were at the same time exhilarated, yet also somewhat apprehensive about the future that would lie ahead of us.
Our early years in Zimbabwe were filled with a flurry of adventure, adjustment, and transition, all through which our parents ensured that we had access to the very best education opportunities available. In their incessant dedication to equip us appropriately for adulthood, they oftentimes supplemented the traditional lessons we received in school, with authentic discussions at home on topics like faith, justice, and responsibility.
By the time I was college-bound in the early 1990s, my father would routinely make connections for me between the rolling tide of global events and the emerging narrative of my own maturing life. I remember, for example, sitting at my Bristol University college room desk in 1994, when I opened a birthday letter from my father, which he had written against the backdrop of the year or so he had served, working on a human rights commission in South Africa at the invitation of Nelson Mandela.
“Mubuso,” the letter began, “consider what an amazing ‘coincidence’ it is that you are turning twenty-one right at the same time that South Africa is transitioning from Apartheid to majority rule.” As the last great bastion of colonialism was falling and Africa, empowered through struggle, was becoming fully self-determined, I too was becoming an adult, empowered through education to be both independent and responsible for my own future.
In many similar entreaties, my father would continually strive to help me understand the integration and mutual dependencies between education and freedom. The fight for liberty, he would argue, must persist as long as people live without opportunity, and the struggle for education must sustain as long as people live without freedom.
Over the course of several years, I began to acquaint myself with the writings of many forefathers of the global emancipation movement. From Moses to Steve Biko, these giants of social change all in some ways acknowledged learning as a means to liberty. In particular, I resonated with the arguments of Frederick Douglass, who articulated the tensions in plain terms: physical freedom, without intellectual freedom is no freedom at all.
I greatly appreciate the contributions of these liberators, as I do the dedication of my parents. It makes sense, therefore, that my life’s work should need to be a specific and aligned continuation in my father’s footsteps. Whereas the work of his generation was largely concerned with the self-determination of nations, the great cause of my generation should be the intellectual emancipation of individuals.
If we value the sacrifice of those who came before us, we will not be complacent in championing the rights of those who follow after us.
That is why I am heavily invested in education.