City lost top educationist, psychologist

Veneliah Nomuhle Mhlaba

Veneliah Nomuhle Mhlaba

Bulawayo and Zimbabwe, has lost a dedicated educationist and psychology professional, Veneliah Nomuhle Mhlaba.

By Strike Mkandla

Born on March 3, 1950 Mhlaba passed away at 12:30am on Tuesday morning, July 21, 2015 at Mater Dei Hospital, a short distance from her house located in Bradfield, Bulawayo.

It is difficult to write without borrowing professional jargon when recounting the life and work of someone who pursued a focussed vision from education and training to life-long application of that focussed interest.

In her daily life, Mhlaba was quite unassuming and therefore deceptively simple for someone who spent so much time studying and training for the professional roles she wanted to attain and use.

She held professional certificates in education and in psychology from Zimbabwe, Malawi, Canada and Britain.

In addition to these she had university degrees from Zimbabwe (B.Sc. in Psychology) and Britain (M.A. in Psychology) and an Advanced Diploma in Education from the University of London’s Institute of Education.

Summing up her career objective, she put it innocuously as, “to facilitate and promote access to inclusive quality and relevant therapy and training to all special groups in society”.

This pithy statement is a clue to her commitment to education and psychology needs of children, adolescents and needy sectors in society.

She was a teacher, counsellor, administrator, planner and social activist who moved with ease across formal education institutions, training and administration, and outreach to communities and organisations providing support to people living with disabilities.

Her voluntary activities included serving as a board member of the Mlondolozi Mental Institution, Trustee of the Bulawayo Mayor’s Christmas Cheer Fund, and chairperson of the Council for the Blind executive committee.

It is instructive that after doing her teacher training certificate (in Mutare) Mhlaba joined the Bulawayo City Council and worked in youth clubs alongside the likes of Mrs Sihwa (her future mother-in-law because she was later to marry Charles Thatha, Mrs Sihwa’s second son).

Towards the end of her life she spent some time as a teacher at Petra School, after a long stint in the Ministry of Education in which she rose to become the Principal Educational Psychologist (PEP) responsible for virtually half of the country.

Mhlaba-Thatha got her primary school education at Mpumelelo Primary School in Bulawayo’s Mpopoma and her secondary school education at Tegwane Mission in Plumtree, set up by the Methodist Church to which she belonged.

She is survived by her only child, Nomathamsanqa. Mhlaba was the sixth in a family of four boys and four girls.

Friends and relatives in Zimbabwe and abroad have paid moving tributes because she touched the lives and valued the fellowship of many that interacted with her.

Today, a service will be held in Bulawayo at the Methodist Church on JMN Nkomo Street at 08:30 this morning before the body of Mhlaba-Thatha is taken to her final rest at West Park Cemetery.

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