Mwizenge S. Tembo, Ph. D
Professor of Sociology
Joseph Mwenge Katapa, Echoes of the Goma Lakes: “Why they behave as UNZA students”, Lusaka, DNK publishers Zambia, 62 pages, Paperback, K100.00
One chilly morning class period at 12 years old in Grade 7 at Tamanda Upper primary School in 1966 in a remote rural part of the Eastern Province, Mr. Phiri digressed from teaching us English, and asked the class what we wanted to be after completing school. We looked at each other blankly in stunned silence. What could kids in a rural village school dream about just 2 years after Zambia’s independence? Then Mr. Phiri gave us his memorable talk.
“What’s the matter with you!” he raised his voice. Then he said almost whispering and sweeping the class with his gaze: “You are young. The future for all of you is wide open. Our young independent country of Zambia will need doctors to cure disease, pilots to fly planes, agricultural experts to grow more food, locomotive drivers to run trains, bankers, teachers, surveyors, newspaper reporters, architects to design homes, engineers. Any of you could even go to the new University of Zambia, get one or two degrees and become college or university lecturers. You need to know not just about our school, our chief, your village, or our country, but about the whole world. Did you know that as we speak in this classroom now at 9 hours, on the other side of the world in Japan its dark at midnight and people are asleep?”
I smiled and looked around to my 34 classmates with a look of amazement, excitement, and befuddlement. That was it! I didn’t know about what my classmates thought but Mr. Phiri’s passionate message was too fascinating for me; a kid who had only known about herding goats in the village up to this point. My imagination was ignited and a seed of curiosity was planted. I went on to go to Chizongwe Secondary School in 1967, and the University of Zambia in 1972 and later went to do my Masters and Ph. D. in the United States.
Poetry of Life
When the author Mr. Joseph Katapa asked me to review his book “Echoes of the Goma Lakes: “Why they behave as UNZA students”, it was both an honor and a challenge. It was an honor because unfortunately for reasons that I have been trying to think of the last 40 years, UNZA graduates never write personal memoirs of what they experienced during their four years at UNZA. This is the first book that I have ever read that dwells on the personal lives and glimpses of the experiences we went through for thousands of us as graduates of University of Zambia since 1969. This is a good time for all UNZA graduates to begin writing our personal experiences about the transformative experiences while students at University of Zambia. No one else will write our personal history. How will our children and grandchildren know how our lives were like as young people growing up at UNZA?
Writing the review was a challenge because I have numerous deep memories of UNZA as the vast majority of us lived through this unique institution during our formative years of what was to be the poetry of our lives. We experienced academic challenges although we were the cream of our nation. I still remember getting the first and only worst humiliating grade of D in my whole academic career on a paper during the very first week as a fresher in 1972. The list of “UNZA Terminologies” in the book reflects that “Mojos” and “Mommas” have remained the same. But there are some new terminologies that reflect change as every UNZA student goes through being a “fresher” to graduation 4 years later.
The four chapters in the book “The Uno Of Uni’s” “Becoming” “Uproars” and “The Contribution” describe when the UNZA student is a “fresher” and the challenges of adjustment. The love lives of the campus mojos and mommas is a staple of the book. One chapter addresses the tumultuous years of student campus politics, unrest, and demonstrations. The central role of UNZASU students union is mentioned which may be the most powerful students union of all the higher institutions in Zambia including the 17 universities in Zambia today. The book also does address the reality that many prominent leaders in Zambia went through UNZA including President Mwanawasa and President Lungu.
This book is a brief narrow window that invokes nostalgia about the good old days at UNZA but also describes the contemporary challenges that the UNZA students might be facing when UNZA had an enrollment of only 1500 (Fifteen Hundred) in 1972 to (Thirty Thousand) 30,000 today in 2019. It is a book of tribute to bittersweet memories from the soul that I hope both UNZA graduates, non-UNZA graduates, and others in the Zambian public will enjoy.
Mwizenge S. Tembo, Ph. D.
Professor of Sociology
University of Zambia 1972-1976.