Tania: First female UNZASU president

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Zambia Daily Mail by Online Editor on 6/1/13


Being a woman is not a limiting factor, as women we can be leaders in every sphere of society. God has created women as leaders, so I urge women and young girls to explore their potential and achieve their goals without feeling limited because of gender.
These are the sentiments of Tania Nyirongo the first female University of Zambia Students Union (UNZASU) president at Ridgeway Campus.
Born on December 27, 1963 to Maxwell and Tryness Nyirongo in Ndola, Ms Nyirongo attributes her success in life to the discipline and work ethics her parents instilled in her at a tender age, adding that they were instrumental in pushing her education agenda.
She started her primary school education at Dominican Convent in Lusaka and then went to Dominican Convent, Ndola where she did her grade 6 up to form 3.
Later she went to Fatima Girls in Ndola where she completed her form 5.
However, she regrets that because she did not take her parents advice about education seriously, she ended up not doing very well in her grade 12 exams.
I was very naughty when I was young. I was always a problem child. I remember putting more focus on pleasure than academic work. That is what many young people are doing now. Pleasure will always be there but you need to be educated first. Focus on school and always know that education is your way to success, says Nyirongo.
She says it is important that young people listen to their parents if they want to succeed in life.
I remember when I was young I decided to get married. My father told me to go to school first but I refused because I did not care about going to school. I thought it was not important at the time. Now is when I have realised that my father had my best interest at heart. Sometimes we think our parents talk too much. But they do that for our benefit because they have experienced what you are going through and they know exactly what they are talking about, she said.
After completing secondary school I went for the Zambia National Service training in Mansa at Lwanfumu camp for girls but was exempted from the training due to medical reasons,Ms Nyirongo said.
She then decided to enroll with Evelyn Hone College to pursue a diploma in pharmacy from 1983 to 1985 and after graduating she worked at Arthur Davison hospital in Ndola before joining Chainama Hills Hospital.
In 1994, after working for Chainama Hills hospital for some years she decided to leave and join Mikwa Investments Limited which was the only Zambian owned pharmaceutical company at the time.
I joined the company from its inception and helped it grow to one of the biggest medical suppliers to mine hospitals, said Ms Nyirongo
After having worked for Mikwa investment limited, she left the company for a more challenging job at Glaxo Wellcome (now called GlaxoSmithKline) which is one of the biggest pharmaceutical multi-nationals in the world with territory manager for Zambia reporting to the South Africa office.
She worked for Glaxo Wellcome until 1995, before being head-hunted by Gamma Pharmaceuticals Zambia in 2005.
I worked for Gamma Pharmaceuticals Zambia as a consultant until its liquidation in 2007, she said.
In 2009, she decided to go for further studies at the University of Zambia Ridgeway Campus and applied to study for a bachelors degree in pharmacy in the School of Medicine.
It was very difficult because I had a family to look after and had been out of school for 24 years. But I got support from my peers and fellow students whom I fondly refer to as my academic children.Ms Nyirongo said.
She said learning in an environment filled with young people is positive adding that they are always willing to help her and she always gives them advice on life.
To some I am a motherly figure because some of them are young enough to be my children. They respect me as an elderly person but that does not keep us from interacting with each other. They treat me like they treat other classmates, she said.
Heartened by the poor conditions of the university surrounding and hostels at Ridgeway Campus, Ms Nyirongo decided to run for the student union presidency in 2010.
She says she was also spurred to add value to the institution because as a parent her children would also at some time in life go through the same.
I saw the challenges my fellow students were facing and being a mother it got to me to at least to do something to help change the welfare of students. And looking at the university surrounding and dilapidated hostels, I wondered as a parent if I would be happy to see my own children learn under such poor conditions. she said.
During her campaign for presidency, Ms Nyirongo says the adopted slogan pebele (meaning on the breast), played a role in granting her victory. The slogan advocated that as a mother figure, she perfectly understood the challenges students were faced with and would extend the compassion she had for her children to bring comfort to her fellow students.
She remembers that at her inauguration, the first lady Dr Christine Kaseba Sata was the guest of honour, a gesture she says still lingers dear to her heart.
Being a female president is great. It shows that women are achievers. My lesson to young girls is that they should aspire for greater things. They can do anything they want.
She says her focus has been on ensuring that the institution is developed for the benefit of the students.
I promoted myself really well and I am committed to ensuring that the institution is made a better place. The institution has been facing a lot of challenges, especially with accommodation, sanitation and other areas. I have involved the corporate worlds who are willing to help us uplift the standards of the institution, said Ms Nyirongo.
Ms Nyirongo said the most challenging task for her has been making sure that students are given a fair hearing in instances where they are expelled, adding that sometimes students expect too much even when they know their expulsion from the university is justified.
In a solemn voice she said her lowest moment was when Kelvin Sinyangwe, then vice-president for UNZASU Ridgeway Campus was found dead in his room under unknown circumstances.
It was a very sad moment for me because this young man was smart, easy to talk to and a fifth year medical student, Ms Nyirongo said.
Ms Nyirongo who is also serving on the University of Zambia Council is expected to graduate at the end of this year.
Ms Nyirongo is a mother of two, both boys, Michael (26) and Kangwa (24).