Saving Graces

new mercies each and every day

Sr. Sturmia Memorial 2016


This is so unreal, was thinking of Sr. Sturmia yesterday a lot, and today I got an invite to join the group! I am singing in the symphony choir and we are doing St Mathews mass on Good Friday in German and as I was reading the words, I was thinking that one of the reasons I decided to study German in the first place was her, one of the reasons I can catch a tune so well without reading music is because of her and Sr Berna, and I don’t need to learn most of the chorals in the piece because she taught the tunes to us. The only reason I still run Guides, Brownies, Teddies and Rangers is her! And yet she never taught me a single subject. Gonna try to make it, the only issue is I will have been in Poland for World youth day two months prior, will be so broke  But where there is a will there is a way!!!

Sr. Sturmia has gone home….


A few months after going back to Germany Sr. Sturmia Denk has passed away. She has gone home. Such a sad day. She will be sorely missed. And to make it all seem real bad one of our parishioners also went home yesterday, but his send-off was definitely not as peaceful as I imagine Sr. Sturmia’s to have been. He was gunned down, shot in a robbery of his jewellery shop at Northgate shopping mall. We continue with the “Why believe?” series this Wednesday and Fr. J said he would be touching on why there is evil in the world. I would like to know why….

Goodbye Sr. Sturmia, you will be sorely missed, but I know you have gone home.

Sr. Sturmia is gone!!!


Well not dead but gone home back to Germany!!!! Sr. Sturmia is one of my all-time favourite people.

The following is taken from the Herald in Zim, verbatim. I’ll miss her so 🙁 now who am I going to write letter abt my Girl Guides and Brownies to?

Monte Cassino: Time to give back

THERESA Makone, Public Works Minister; Joyce Kazembe, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission deputy chairperson; Priscah Mupfumira, former board chairperson, Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe; Josephine Ncube, City of Harare chamber secretary; Dr Felistas Zawaira (medical practitioner); Hilda Wasiya, Mashonaland West Zanu-PF Women’s League executive member and former freedom fighter; Captain Emilia Njovana, first black woman commercial pilot; Grace Muradzikwa, CEO, NicozDiamond Limited; Engineer Susan Gumise; Christine Jackson, member of Zimbabwe’s diplomatic corps, and many more.

They all have one thing in common.

They are representatives of some of the finest professional women produced by Monte Cassino Girls Secondary School in Macheke.

And, all of them including yours truly, were students taught by Sister Sturmia Dent.

We never called them by their last names.

They were simply Sister Sturmia; Praxedes; Yvonne; Rachel or Sister Herbetis.

Some of the Mugabe girls attended Monte Cassino, including the late Auxilia Mugabe, daughter to President Mugabe’s brother.

As one of the thousands of these women, it was gratifying and painful at the same to see one of the nuns who sacrificed so much so that we could have the best education black women could ever have in this country, say goodbye.

Sister Sturmia Dent retired and went back to her native home country — Germany — on Tuesday.

She was one of the school’s longest serving staff members.

Sister Sturmia who also had other responsibilities such as praise and worship and distribution of stationery and textbooks taught this writer’s class.

However, more touching was that some of the nation’s leading professional women — her former students not only gathered at Harare International Airport to say goodbye to her, but that they went the extra mile and had the media record the event.

And, ZTV did a fantastic job, putting this school on the world map, and demonstrating that it has impressive deliverables.

In retrospect, Hildegarde remembers how on September 15 2008, she quietly sang to herself the song sung at Monte Cassino, as signatories to the Global Political Agreement appended their signatures to the document that culminated in the inclusive Government:

Last night I had

The strangest dreams

I never had before

I dreamt there was

A mighty room

And the room was filled with men

The paper

They were signing said

They will never fight again!

The alumna who saw her off included Public Works Minister Theresa Makone; Commissioner Joyce Kazembe; Mrs Priscah Mupfumira; Sister Martina Gwavava and others.

Since its inception, Monte Cassino has been one of the jewels in the nation’s crown producing top-flight women who have demonstrated their competence in every sector of the economy. They are also scattered all over the globe.

Founded in 1902 by a man who is said to have received his inspiration while he was at Monte Cassino, it became one of the first mission schools to provide education to black women.

Over the decades, it has produced women who have occupied various positions in both the public and private sectors.

According to information on one website, the school has flourished over the years, benefiting from the dedication of Precious Blood sisters and the Benedictines.

What does this all mean?

Why would the departure of one nun touch the hearts of her former students to the extent that they left their busy schedules to see her off?

A lot! We were a privileged group, and this departure demonstrates the end of an era, with the old form of missionary now retiring, and giving way to people they trained to take over the reins of power.

People like Kazembe, Mupfumira and Makone represent what this writer could conservatively describe as the first professionals — the burden bearers, for as some of us went to Monte Cassino, and later entered professions previously reserved for males and whites on the basis of the successes these pioneers had achieved academically and professionally.

Educating a girl child was never easy, just as exercising women’s rights and privileges are still an uphill task. Elizabeth Schmidt in her book, “Peasants, Traders and Wives: Shona Women in the History of Zimbabwe, 1870-1939” says: “Missionary education instilled in both boys and girls such values as hard work, discipline, obedience to authority. However, boys alone were taught to be breadwinners, household heads, and figures of authority. Girls, in contrast, learned that it was their duty to stay at home, cooking and cleaning, raising healthy Christian children, and respecting and obeying their husbands . . .”

While some of these values are still noble, Zimbabwean women have realised that they cannot just be stewardesses. They can sit in the cockpit of a Boeing 767 and announce, “Good evening ladies and gentlemen. This is Captain Emilia Njovana speaking. We will be flying at an altitude of . . .”

She is not just the first, but she is also now training other commercial pilots, and taking Zimbabwe places, including its women. Managing government ministries; the nation’s electoral systems and being captains of industry and commerce has enriched them, and it might never be known whether the nuns at Monte Cassino had this long-term vision about their girls.

The conditions might not have been rosy when we went to school then, but there was a dedicated and motivated teaching staff who regarded teaching as a vocation.

They sometimes seemed not to realise that they were educating girls against many cultural dictates, and also seemed to be blind to the fact that the only professions open to girls then were teaching and nursing. But they spurred them on.

This was also an education system that relied very heavily on philanthropy. But as missionaries retire, handing over the baton to locals, we realise that the education sector once again needs new ways of funding it.

They saw so much into us and into the future. Later, at St Augustine’s Mission, at the height of the liberation struggle, we had Father Prosser, the school’s principal, giving one simple instruction: “Even if the (Rhodesian) soldiers’ helicopters fly into the examination room, continue writing until you are done.”

It bordered on insanity and the impossible, but this was the best encouragement they could give us, given the war conditions where anything was possible, death included.

For them, teaching was a calling. They were women and men whose interest in their products’ achievements was unquestionable. They gave of their time and expertise so generously, without necessarily expecting much, although history has not been very kind about the link between missionaries and the colonial system.

However, in 2010 when the education system is at the crossroads, the above event, capturing the past and present of one of the country’s top-ranked girls’ high schools, can provide answers to current challenges.

Maybe this can make us understand where we are losing the plot. For, we are the generation that benefited so much, but a generation described by a colleague as selfish, and which runs the risk of derailing the country’s education system due to misguided attitudes and priorities.

When the education sector is experiencing unprecedented challenges, this writer asks Monte Cassino’s alumna why it has taken so long for them to give back, not only to Monte Cassino, but to society in general, just like the missionaries did?

We got the best education, and most of it, especially tertiary education paid for by philanthropists. Can we reassure the nation that three decades from now, Zimbabwe’s education system shall continue to produce top-flight women, irrespective of which school they are from? Can this alumna do that with confidence?

When there are economic challenges the first people likely to be deprived of education rights are girl children, and the result is the feminisation of poverty.

As a privileged lot, what steps are we taking to address the problem, and ensure that every Zimbabwean receives quality education at affordable cost?

We were also a fortunate lot that received its education in proper infrastructures, and after independence hundreds of primary and secondary schools were constructed. Universities and colleges too! Why then are we allowing children to be taken out of formal structures and educated in so-called “private colleges” where parents are being ripped off?

As women, why have we also watched as levies and teachers’ incentives become sticking points to the development of the education system? What has our empowerment as women done to address these issues? We are legacies of the likes of Sister Sturmia, but will we also have “generational legacies” celebrated in future years?

Maybe I have been too harsh on us, so much unlike A. B. Facey, an ordinary man, who grew up starved of basics. He was not a man of letters. Through resilience, he had to teach himself to read and write. Orphaned at an early age, the only love he really knew was that of his grandmother. She cared and shared a lot. The bit that he managed to do in terms of education was through his grandmother’s motivation. His was a life of trials and tribulations in early 20th century Australia.

Facey captures his experiences in a classic autobiography, “A Fortunate Life”, which is not only an inspiration but is also one of the best exposes of how some people appreciate life and the abundant gifts therein. To some readers, “A Fortunate Life” is a story full of pain and suffering, but Facey was still able to look at it and find a lot of positive things to be thankful about.

This writer has always appreciated the first-class type of education received, and the more than 50 teachers, lecturers and professors who moulded her. But it was Sister Sturmia’s departure that made me realise how fortunate Monte Cassino’s alumna have all been.

We were fortunate to have parents who made so many sacrifices to send us to school.

We were also fortunate to enter an education system, which offered us the few opportunities available then to excel.