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» » Spirituality and education: Dr Chidarikire strikes a balance

Pastor Munyaradzi Chidarikire

Moses Ziyambi

The Alliance Church in Zimbabwe (ACZ) is celebrating the achievement of one of its own, Pastor Munyaradzi Chidarikire, who recently graduated from the University of the Free State (UFS) with a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree with Specialisation in Psychology of Education.
Though many people are pursuing tertiary education to the furthest limits possible, the story of Chidarikire is made unique due to the time it took him to complete his doctorate, a record 16 months, as well as the odds he overcame towards that feat.
Chidarikire was born and bred in Masvingo where he did his primary education at Dikwindi and Vurombo before proceeding to Ndarama Secondary School.
After secondary school, he failed to go to Victoria High School for his 'A' levels because his parents could not afford the fees; his father having been retrenched from the now mothballed Cold Storage Company (CSC).
He had also completed his secondary education with the aid of the social welfare department but despite these challenges, and many others, Chidarikire is now a proud holder of a doctorate degree which he attained on full scholarship.
Titled, 'A peer counselling strategy for alleviating drug abuse in Zimbabwean rural learning ecologies', his 465 page thesis explores the drug abuse phenomena among adolescent learners.
"I have nobody to thank except God for guiding me through a long journey which could otherwise have been impossible," said Chidarikire.
It indeed could otherwise have been an impossible mission for a man from the most humble of backgrounds, somebody who had to defer his 'A' level dreams simply because he could not raise a few Zim dollars for school fees.
He enrolled with UFS in February 2016 for his Ph.D. and had submitted his final dissertation by June 2017, shocking his supervisor as well as the board and literally throwing them into a quandary as to what to do with him.
Totally befuddled, they debated on whether to let him graduate with the 2017 class or not, now that he had completed all the required work in less than half the maximum given time.
"My supervisor finally carried the day after successfully defending me. He told them that the work I had submitted was high quality work so they finally agreed to let me graduate. As I speak, many of my peers are still sweating it out in the early chapters of their dissertations," said Chidarikire.
He credits total commitment and hard work for the larger than life story of his academic success, saying he would at times sit on the desk for up to 18 hours to work on his project.
Chidarikire's academic journey began in 1999 when he, with the facilitation of Alliance Church in Zimbabwe's Bishop Charles Josiya, got a scholarship through the Swedish Alliance Church to study theology at Phumelela Bible College in Mpumalanga, South Africa.
He finished the three-year course in 2001, emerging as the best student of his class and graduating with a Licentiate, instead of the ordinary Certificate in Ministerial Theology.
He came back home in 2003 and started helping with pastoral work at the church's assemblies in such places as Mashava and Mucheke before enrolling for a one-year course with the Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM)'s Living Waters Bible College where he met great inspirational personalities including Olivia Charamba.
In 2005, he enrolled with the Zimbabwe Open University (Zou) for a Bachelor of Science (BSc) Honours in Counselling and graduated in 2010 with a 2:1 degree class. At this time, he concurrently had enrolled with Masvingo Polytechnic for a Certificate in Further Education and Training, later deciding to continue with the studies up to diploma level.  On graduating with a Diploma in Further Education and Training in 2008, he was named best student.
Being passionate about contributing to the fight against the scourge of HIV and Aids, which was wreaking havoc in all communities including the church, Chidarikire enrolled with the University of South Africa (Unisa) in 2008 for a certificate in HIV and Aids Counselling.
"The Alliance Church already had HIV and Aids programmes of its own. My motive, therefore, was to complement those efforts. I wanted to be an advocate in that regard, so that I could talk from a point of knowledge and not from a point of assumptions," Chidarikire said.
Besides offering pastoral counselling to his own flock, he engaged Red Cross and became embedded in its programmes as a peer educator, training orphaned children to become peer counsellors themselves.
"It was at this stage that I became aware of the perverted nature of our society, having met some of the most sickening cases of child sexual abuse perpetrated by people whom we normally regard as respectable leaders in society," said Chidarikire.
Courtesy of a programme which had just been introduced by the new Great Zimbabwe University (GZU) Vice Chancellor Professor Rungano Zvobgo, Chidarikire, whose wife Jane works for the university, was able to enroll for his Master's in Educational Psychology and graduated in 2014 with a distinction. Prof Zvobgo introduced a scheme allowing GZU employees, their spouses and children to study at highly subsidised tuition, with the university paying 70 percent of the costs.
"After Master's, I applied with University of the Free State for a Ph.D. and I was accepted. Wits (University of the Witwatersrand) had also accepted me but they had offered only a 30 percent scholarship so I weighed my options," said Chidarikire.
By this time, he was already lecturing at Phumelela Bible College, adding to his huge portfolio of responsibilities as a husband, father, pastor and having been involved in church administration work since 2014.
At the moment, Chidarikire has returned to GZU to pursue a Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) Honours Specialising in Educational Psychology.
"I am strongly convinced that career guidance should begin from as early as grade zero if children are to make the right choices in their studies. I lacked that guidance for the better part of my life and that explains why I am now back to study for an honours when I have a Ph.D. I shifted from one area to the other so I am now working to streamline my qualifications so that I can become an expert in one clear academic field.  I advise parents to make sure their children maintain one area of study up to doctorate level so as to enhance their chances of finding employment," said Chidarikire.
He advised his colleagues in the clergy to continue exploiting the vast potential of education to save souls while serving both the spiritual and physiological needs of

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