Society give people labels according to what they see from outside, unaware of what really is hidden in their hearts, minds and visions. This is true of Babra Mutanda who spent years in Zimbabwe as an ordinary mother and house wife in Mbare and Chitungwiza before she became a top nurse in Australia. Zim Abroad Editor Martin Chemhere brings her story first hand.
Babra’s tale stands out as people expect to see someone gain reasonable success or show potential in their prime youth.
“I was born in Rusape, Zimbabwe, under Chief Makoni. We are eight in my family 6 boys and 2 girls and I the eldest daughter,” says Babra in an interview from her base in Sydney, Australia.
She did primary education at Handina Primary, Nyazura and went to Harare for secondary education at Seke 1 High School in Chitungwiza.
The mother to four kids, two boys and two girls has been living in Australia for nine years now.
When she arrived Down Under she did not have enough qualifications to secure employment there as the country’s system has criteria of employing people only after they meet specific professional requirements.
She then decided to train as an Assistant in Nursing Certificate 3 before being attached to gain work experience after which she started working immediately on completion.
During that time she says that she worked permanent four-day shifts for four years. After that she registered to study for the Disability Certificate 4 and graduated after 6 months.
That was followed with studies for the Diploma in Disability in the next year but half way through she wanted to get a position in a hospital set up so she enlisted again to study for Health Services Certificate 3 for 6 months. This means she was doing two courses in one year and at the same time working full time.
“It was during the diploma lectures that I developed a lot of knowledge about disability and got to compare and understand the difference between the practices here with that from Africa. I fell in in love with the profession and was inspired to take it further.”
On graduating with two certificates in December 2012 she went big enrolling for a higher qualification – a degree relating to disability studies. This led her to study for an on-line Bachelor of Social Work and Welfare for 3 years with Charles Sturt University.
In 2013 when she was half way in her Bachelor of Social Work she enrolled for the Bachelor of Nursing which was going to start the following February of 2014. Again this meant working hard as she was now engaging in two degrees in the same year, one on-line based alone at home and another one as a fulltime student at the Australian Catholic University in Sydney.
She admits that being a fulltime mother, worker and student for double degrees was not easy but with encouragement and support of her kids, she was spurred on. She then graduated with a Bachelor of Social Work and Welfare in August 2016 while she was still busy with the Bachelor of Nursing, which she completed in December 2016.
Since she started working in Australia, she has worked for different organisations, and these include Kennedy Health as her first employers before she became a permanent employee with Care Connect Disability, Area Home Cares, Liverpool and West Mead Hospitals, her current work places as a nurse.
Babra highlights that the tests that she experienced included getting to know the way things are done in Australia. As she was the only black student among the students it became more challenging but she was lucky to have met one lecturer from South Africa.
“This lecturer gave me courage and hope and told me that I was one of the best students of which I later proved it when I was given so many awards.
“What made things worse was that I never used a computer when in Zimbabwe but when I enrolled for the on-line degree I knew I had to start learning how to use it. It was not easy but I managed.”
Babra explains that nursing is well respected and a very important field in Australia and that it is among the biggest employing professions with lots of jobs coming out daily.
The advice she wants to give to others is that “nothing is never too late in life; just follow your dreams, trust yourself and prove it.” While her motto is “age is just a number you can!”
Asked about one day returning to Zimbabwe she said. “If things are good, I am happy to come back and use all what I have studied here to help my country to develop, especially in mental health and disability.”
Her story is truly inspirational.