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    Sudan''s Crisis

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    Zimbabwe: Academics conceive varsity for women
    Posted on Monday, September 23 @ 01:59:49 UTC
    Topic: Africa Focus
    Africa FocusBy Moyiga Nduru, www.herald.co.zw

    IN sub-Saharan Africa, access to educational facilities is still inadequate.

    The girl-child and women are further disadvantaged by discrimination in access to education owing to customary attitudes, early marriages and pregnancies.

    Two Zimbabwean academics are therefore putting together the final touches to a new university seeking to help African Women whose education is interrupted by family commitments or financial constraints.

    The university will open in the capital Harare before moving to its permanent site in Marondera, 80 kilometres to the east.

    The academics — Dr Hope Sadza and Fay Chung — say the university will open with an initial intake 0f 400.

    The number will be split into groups of 100 for each of the first four faculties — social science, agriculture, environmental studies, and science and technology.

    The acceptance age of students is 25 years and above.

    "The idea first frightened us," recalls Dr Sadza, executive chairperson of the Women’s University in Africa (WUA), referring to the monumental task involved in setting up the institution.

    "Then we thought, if others can do it why not us," she says.

    Dr Sadza and Chung — long-time friends from their school days — began toying with the idea of starting the university in 1998.

    "We were both doing our PhDs," says Dr Sadza.

    Last year, Dr Sadza resigned from the Government, where she was deputy commissioner of Zimbabwe’s Public Service Commission, to work on the university project full-time.

    Chung, former minister of education, will join Dr Sadza later.

    She is currently working with the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) in Addis Ababa, Ethopia.

    "Having travelled a long and often thorny road to gender equality and equity, the creation of the university is a good opportunity to consolidate this struggle," says a strategic document available to IPS by the university.

    "The need for a women’s university is more acute in Africa where women are the most disadvantaged and the poorest," says the document.

    In cases where they have access to education, women have to endure sexual harassment, lack educational materials and inaccessible educational facilities which force some of them out of school.

    "In Africa, women till the land and produce the bulk of the food, yet they have no idea about the marketing side of it," says Sadza.

    "Agriculture is another area where we can empower women," says Sadza, a mother of two.

    The university has acquired a 285-hectare farm, at the edge of Harare, to train students in agriculture.

    Teaching will focus on both agricultural production and marketing.

    According to Beyond Inequalities, Women in Southern Africa, a regional publication, while women account for 80 percent of agricultural production in Africa, they have no control over resources or policies that guide this sector.

    "Vital resources like land and water are often prescribed by law and customs, while inputs such as improved seeds, fertiliser, pesticides, equipment, or paid agricultural labour are unaffordable to women," says the publication.

    Until recently, agricultural extension services targeted men almost exclusively because women’s agricultural work is perceived as being outside the formal cash economy.

    Preparing women for political leadership is one of the university’s key goals.

    Ironically, the university remains but a distant dream for women like Faith Rudo, a 30-year-old domestic worker.

    The university charges US$3 000 per student annually for tuition excluding accommodation fee, which is out of reach for many women.

    Rudo found herself with no alternative but domestic work after failing to enrol in the university.

    The market for better-paying jobs in Zimbabwe continues to shrink.

    "There is no way I can afford to pay the fees from my monthly salary of $2 500," Rudo laments.

    One US dollar is equal to 55 Zimbabwe dollars.

    Dr Sadza says the university has embarked on an international fund-raising campaign to help people like Rudo to finish their education.

    "This university will be at the cutting edge in Africa in terms of teaching and strategies for addressing the needs of the marginalised women," says Sadza.

    So far, the university has received contributions and pledges amounting to about $32,5 million since August. Students are to come from all over Africa.

    WUA will be the second w omen’s university in Africa, after the Ahfad University in Sudan. — Third World Network Features-IPS.

    Reproduced from:
    http://www.herald.co.zw/index.php?c ategory=Analysis&pubdate=2002-09-23

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