It gives me a great honor for me to stand here, on behalf of our Dean, Professor Levi Obonyo, at this event to celebrate a great woman: Mary Kizito.
In my own academic career, remembrance is one of my pet subjects. We cannot understand who we are, unless we remember. We cannot have the motivation to do good for our students, or for society, if we do not believe that we will be remembered after we leave this earthly home. The reason that our cultures talk about the ancestors, pour libation to them, name new-born children after them, teach us to recite our genealogies, is because they recognize the importance of knowing our history. Of remembering. Our cultures recognize that if the life of those who leave before us is not valued, then the lives of us still on this earth will not be valued either. So in remembering Ms. Kizito, we affirm ourselves as well.
I also remember Mary Kizito as a fellow woman who triumphed over cancer. She was diagnosed a few months after I completed my chemo, and I used to worry about how she would cope with the social pressures that come with being diagnosed. As a cancer patient myself, I had had to deal with the panic of my family and friends, and with contradictory treatment advice. I feared that Ms. Kizito may crack under the pressure, but every time I bumped into her, she’d share stories with me and affirm her belief, and mine, in the value of life. I remember.
But I also remember Mary Kizito as a woman who exemplifies the contribution and sacrifices women continue to make in the academy. Mary Kizito poured her life and soul into building the Communication department. She let go of the opportunity to further her personal career for the sake of not just the department, but also for Daystar whose vision and mission she internalized. It was a huge sacrifice, one which many women in the academy continue to make, and in so doing, miss opportunities for further studies and for professorial promotion. And many times, we women academics do not receive thanks. If anything, we’re ridiculed, especially if we’re not wives and mothers, despite the fact that in many African cultures, motherhood is more than just biological; it is a metaphor of the nurturing relationship that adults owe the younger generations, but also of the love and respect those generations must give to their elders, and to women in particular.
Over the years, as we develop more ways to remember Ms. Kizito’s legacy, I hope we will call for a reconsideration of the promotion criteria in the academy, or at least, more recognition of the work of women who set up systems and mentor students. Maybe we could start an award in Ms. Kizito’s name to honor female academicians who may otherwise be overlooked by the professorial criteria, despite having an impact as profound as Ms. Kizito’s.
But that discussion of the many things we could do to celebrate Ms. Kizito’s legacy cannot proceed without us first remembering, without us taking stock of what Ms. Kizito did when she was with us, and of the work that she started and that we must continue. And so in the name of the God whom Ms. Kizito served, and of the thousands of students whom she nurtured, I bless you Solomon Mahinda, Dr. Nancy Booker, Paul Achar and the Daystar University Alumni for starting us off on this process. Ms. Kizito lives on because you are remembering her today. And in remembering her, you too will live beyond your years. And the continent of Africa will be better for it, because by remembering Ms. Kizito, we contribute to healing the wounds that Africa suffers due to the disruption and distortion of our memory.
Mungu ibariki Afrika.
I presented these remarks at the inaugural Mary Kizito Memorial Lecture, held on March 21, 2016 at Daystar University.