The Early Years
How the Catholic students movement in Zimbabwe started and developed
The origins of the National Movement of Catholic Students can be traced back to the August Heroes Holiday in 1990, when 72 students from 12 tertiary colleges gathered at St Ignatius College for the first Catholic Students Assembly.
This became an annual event until, in 1993, 118 students from 17 colleges resolved that:
“A National Catholic Tertiary Students Movement should be formed so that we can speak with a loud united voice. The steering committee for this Assembly can work on forming the Movement”.
That steering committee was made up of Alex Mthobi, Natasha Mhike, Philip Marufu and Priscilla Nhando. In December that year a second national conference was held at Regina Mundi school, Gweru.
The following year’s Assembly in August 1994, attended by representatives of 22 colleges, formally created NMCS by adoptingit’snew Constitution. It was never the intention to form a new organisation in individual colleges, but simply to have a movement which could bring Catholic students together occasionally for conferences, and to facilitate contact and coordination between Catholics in individual colleges. Thus the membership of NMCS was defined as
“… all Catholic students at all tertiary institutions in the country. By becoming a member of the Catholic Society at any given college, one automatically becomes a member of the Movement.”
The same Assembly also resolved that future national meetings should rotate around the Provinces, and suggested that students in nearby colleges should organise their own regional meetings. From then on, the students organised regional meetings for the colleges in and around Bulawayo, Harare, Gweru, Masvingo and Mutare.
At the December conference there was a lot of discussion about how to ensure proper representation of all Provinces on the National Executive. Then at the 1995 Assembly in Bulawayo, the Constitution was amended to ensure that each region is represented in the National Executive. The 1999 Assembly amended the Constitution further to establish elected Regional Executives.
In 1996 there was a lot of discussion concerning the threat to the independence of the Movement where the current President was also in his college SRC. The following year the Constitution was amended to say:
“The President shall not hold any office in other organisations with aims and objectives which clash with those of the Movement. Prior to being elected, Presidential candidates shall declare their interests in other organisations.”
After holding December conferences for 4 years, it was decided to move these to Easter. December was proving not to be very convenient, with many students going to their rural homes at that time of year. The Easter conferences immediately proved a great success; the students appreciated organising and taking a full part in their own Thursday, Friday and Saturday Easter liturgies.
The normal pattern for the August Assemblies and December/Easter Conferences was to have 3 presentations or discussions. One on a religious or spiritual theme, another on a social / economic / political theme, then there would be a presentation by a married couple talking about their experiences in their relationship.
Conference themes for the first 13 years of the Movement were:
1990: • Working for a Just Society
1991: • Role of Tertiary Students in Church & Society
1992: • Prophetic Role of Professionals in Society
1993: • Action for Justice – an integral part of the Gospel
- Human Rights
1994: • Students for Evangelisation
- The Family
1995: • Our Struggle for Faith & Morality
- Respecting Human Dignity & Chastity
1996: • The Living Word for a Dying World
- Today’s Choice – Tomorrow’s Outcome
1997: • Togetherness, Strength, Wisdom through Christ
1998: • Christ’s Risen Life – Our Life
- The Holy Spirit with Us for Us
1999: • Quest for Life with Dignity
- New World Order – Globalisation
- Student Participation in National Development
2000: • Peace in Africa – Break the Poverty Cycle
- Conflict Resolution & Disaster Management
2001: • Destination Zimbabwe – Road to Recovery
- Tolerance & Awareness to Zimbabwean Realities
2002: • Salted & Aglow – Where do we go?
During the 1993 conference on the theme of human rights, the students marched into Gweru city centre calling for the abolition of the death penalty, and were addressed by the Mayor. During the 1999 conference, the students marched through Sakubva, Mutare, calling for an end to child abuse, and presented a petition to a ZRP representative. From 1995 each conference also included an afternoon of community service.
The same pattern of an Easter Conference and August Assembly has continued now for 20 years. This is a great achievement for a student organisation, and credit for this goes to the students themselves who have maintained stability, continuity and dedication. Many of the former students who attended those early conferences are now in very influential positions, and continuing to work for the further of the Kingdom of God and the development of Zimbabwe.