ANYONE who had the privilege to sit at Professor Meshack Jongilanga Matshazi’s feet would know that he was a passionate and dedicated educator who found happiness in imparting knowledge.
Prof MJ, as he was affectionately known by those close to him, died on February 13 at Edith Duly Nursing Home in Bulawayo where he had been receiving treatment after suffering two strokes. He will be buried at Lady Stanley Cemetery in the city tomorrow. He was 78.
His death was a huge blow to his family, friends, students, colleagues, Bulawayo and the nation as a whole but his legacy is what he will always be remembered for.
Nothing describes Prof MJ’s life better than his insatiable hunger to be educated and to educate others.
He went far beyond the call of duty in the quest to share knowledge with those that sought it.
He found fulfilment when a learner’s eyes ‘lit up’ with a glow of understanding after he had taught a particular concept.
Even though he retired back in 2009, Prof Matshazi had gone back to work because he felt he still had more to give and could not sit on his laurels.
Before retirement, Prof Matshazi worked as Visiting Professor at the University of Fort Hare in South Africa, where he worked as a professor and doctoral studies and research coordinator.
At the time of his death, Prof Matshazi, was the Zimbabwe Open University regional coordinator for Bulawayo District.
He was also responsible for the supervision of doctoral programmes at different universities in the country.
Prof MJ was also a part-time facilitator at the University of Johannesburg, further illustrating his undying love for academic work and the mental stimulation it afforded him.
Because he wanted to be close to his family, Prof MJ had requested to work from Bulawayo despite the stipulations of his contract regarding the supervision of doctoral programmes which compelled him to work from Harare.
Academia is not all he lived for. Prof Matshazi was a family man and in typical Ndebele fashion was interested in getting to know anyone who crossed his path on a personal level.
His son, Pastor Dumiso Matshazi said his father always had a keen interest in people.
“He always wanted to engage people on a personal level. He’d want to know who you are. He wanted to know people above the superficial level,” said Pastor Matshazi.
He said his father cared about the extended family.
“He wanted everyone to grow together. Other than assisting in education, he valued family and culture. Losing him as a family was a big blow,” said Pastor Matshazi.
Prof Matshazi knew minute historical social and family details he had heard from his parents.
He valued people and worked hard to build them professionally as well as maintain family cohesiveness.
He was the glue that held the family together.
“Prof Matshazi didn’t want to meet someone and leave them without inspiring them to do better or do more. In cases where it was within his power to do something about an individual’s plight, he made sure he did,” said Pastor Matshazi.
If being an educator were grounds for being accorded national hero status, Pastor Matshazi believes his father deserved the honour because of his contributions to the sector during the course of his adult life.
“Other academics should emulate him. He developed the concept of ZOU as an extension of adult education. He was one of the greatest educators of our time and had the ability to bring the best out of people,” said Pastor Matshazi.
He was a fluent, informed and passionate communicator. When he said something, “you got it”.
Because he was a patient man, Prof MJ helped many with their doctoral studies and those he helped would complete their theses in record time.
His presence could never be ignored.
“Prof Matshazi was a specialist in adult education and contributed a lot to the sector all over the country. He participated in symposia, conferences and programmes about adult education and was interested in education across all sectors. We respected him a lot; he was the smartest man in our family,” said Pastor Matshazi.
Meshack Jongilanga Matshazi was born on January 7, 1937 in Insiza District at a place called Shilo, north-east of present day Esigodini.
The first school he attended was Insimbiti Mission, a Seventh Day Adventist-run primary school in rural Insiza, where he completed his Standard 6.
He proceeded to Lower Gwelo Teacher Training Institute where he was trained as a primary school teacher in 1958 after which he went to Bulawayo Technical College where he completed his Ordinary Level in 1964.
During the years of political upheaval before the country attained its independence in 1980, Prof Matshazi became active in the liberation struggle.
He was later sent to study in Czechoslovakia where he completed the University Entrance Certificate in 1965 but chose to come back to Africa and be close to efforts to liberate the country in neighbouring Zambia.
Prof Matshazi was enrolled at the University of Zambia and completed a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and Political Science in 1969.
He went on to read for a post-graduate Certificate in Education in 1970.
During the course of his academic career, Prof Matshazi fell in love with adult education and chose it as an area of specialisation.
He did a post-graduate Diploma in Adult Education at the University of London in 1976 and then a Master of Arts Degree in Education at the University of Hull, in the United Kingdom which he completed in 1978.
After several years of full time teaching, researching, facilitation and consulting, he eventually earned a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Education at the University of Zimbabwe in 1986.
Prof MJ’s professional experience as an educator can be compared to none.
He taught at all levels of educational development – from primary and secondary school, professional training and university education.
Because of his love for people and a desire to transform communities, Prof Matshazi dedicated much of his time to adult education at community level.
This, he did to promote the development of adult education across a significant number of fields such as labour, health, agriculture and socio-politics.
Prof Matshazi’s work was not limited to Zimbabwe and Africa but extended to the West Indies, UK, USA, Canada, Scandinavia and Europe.
He wrote 21 books as well as research reports which were peer reviewed and have been used as references by others.
Prof MJ was awarded six accolades for meritorious work.
He was the kind of man that other professionals should seek to equal and youngsters should seek to emulate.
All those who knew him will miss his quick wit, his grand intellectual prowess, his candour and of course his signature deep baritone voice.
He is survived by his wife Patricia, five children and seven grandchildren.