Today I found out that the world lost a great African Environmental and Sustainability Educator: Dr. Victor Tichaona Pesanayia.
Tich Pesanayi (07/12/1965 – 16/04/2019)
Tich was a gentle, kind and understanding person with Mandela-like qualities. From the first day I met him in Howick, KwaZulu-Natal, he impressed and inspired me – he radiated calmness and wisdom and proved to be a masterful facilitator when we worked with a group from the University of Zululand with colleagues from Wageningen at WESSA.He later involved me in his PhD work as one of his supervisors, although my role was modest and I sometimes think I learnt more from him than the other way around. Just days before his passing he managed to attend the graduation ceremony at Rhodes University.
Tich at his graduation at Rhodes University with his main supervisor and co-learner Heila Lotz-Sisitka
Life is not fair, we know that, but it hurts every time we witness it. I know he was a very religious man with faith – I am sure this provided him a lot of comfort. How wonderful that he was able to attend the gradation ceremony still.
I wish his family and loved ones lots of strength in coping with this tremendous loss. Rest assured though that he touched so many lives and his impact will travel much further still.
Below I am sharing the tribute to him from Mumsie Gumede, the president of the Environmental Education Association of Southern Africa EESA.
“We are immensely saddened by the passing of Dr Victor Tichaona Pesanayi, fondly known in our sector as Tich; a friend, colleague, teacher, scholar, mentor, leader, researcher, prolific writer, visionary activist for environmental education in the sub-region, and our Secretary General.
This comes a week after we celebrated his graduation with a PhD in Education at Rhodes University, South Africa.
Tich made his debut in our organisation, EEASA, and regional sector at large during the times of the POEM – a schools’ environmental policy programme that was run by Environment Africa, Zimbabwe, under the leadership and mentorship of Innocent Hodzonge. Some will recall his EEASA 2004 remarkable presentation which was fully subscribed to the point that Janet Snow, the Treverton Colleges conference organizer had to make additional slots available in the programme. Others will remember him during the thorough research and feedback workshops at EEASA 2006 in Harare when EEASA and the SADC Regional Environmental Education Programme (SADC-REEP) were paving the way for bottom up participation in the 2005-1014 UN Decade on Education for Sustainable Development (UNDESD). The research he did with Prof. Heila Sisitka, Dr Lausanne Olvitt and Mumsie Gumede was subsequently published through Share-Net as a series of written reports. Some UNESCO Commissioners and EE practitioners will remember him for the UNDESD mid-term evaluation research workshops in the SADC sub-region, working with the SADC REEP team and Prof. Overson Chumba, Zambia. He later joined WESSA in Howick to take over the SADC-REEP management baton from Dr Justin Lupele, Mumsie Gumede, Mike Ward and Dr Jim Taylor with amazing fortitude; hitting the ground running, as the programme was just evolving into a different stage.
Tich contributed to EEASA in many ways. He served in the EEASA Council since 2007 and played a strategic role in keeping EEASA, SADC REEP, and SADC EE Networks together. This work was so strategic that he was co-opted into Council a number of times to support specific areas that enhance the regionalization and scaling of (ESD) through EEASA. Whether he was elected, co-opted or merely volunteering as an ordinary member, his contributions were always profound and insightful. In a way, he was the back-bone of the EEASA Council for many years! He researched and wrote articles on EEASA nodes and networks, and introduced a number of people to the Association as he traversed the region, and indeed the globe, representing the sub-regional ESD voice….”multiple voices, diversity of contributing voices, convergence (solidarity) and divergence of voices, and silent voices…”, in conversation with Tich, Feb 2019.
On Thursday, 11 April 2019 Tich graduated with his PhD from Rhodes University to his and his family’s joy. His PhD was not just written in words, it was realized in the lives of the many people he worked with over the course of his study, including a number of young scholars whom he mentored, some of whom were introduced to EEASA such as Keneilwe Mathaba, Phindi Sithole, Chisala Lupele, and Sarah Durr all of whom have much to offer EEASA in future. Tich would have wanted the next generation to take on the task of carrying EEASA forward where he left it off. His mentorship is aptly captured by the Muxombo Youth Group in Alice who are part of the Amanzi for Food training programme:“The work of Mr. Tich lives through us today at eSixekwe location! Sobonana kwelizayo mnumzana.”
Indeed, Tichaona’s contributions to EEASA are deep and strong, eternally captured in his prolific academic writing and book contributions. His PhD is one that can provide leadership for the SADC sub-region for many years to come. This is the citation that was read on his PhD study on Thursday morning at his PhD graduation:
“African communities have been disconnected from land, and from traditional agro-ecological practices including seed saving and water harvesting. In this study Tichaona recovers African cultures of agriculture. Working generatively with agricultural colleges and farmers in South Africa and Zimbabwe he re-centres the smallholder farmer in agricultural education and learning systems. His expansive, boundary-crossing learning network approach to transformative learning in agricultural learning systems offers a new model for agricultural education and training in Africa with significant theoretical and practical implications”.
Our hearts go out to his dear wife Amanda, his mother and the broader family. We thank them for sharing this kind giant with us at home and away from home. May they be comforted by the knowledge that it was not in vain as accolades keep coming in for Tich from all over the world.
“…I remember him very well from various meetings and I always enjoyed working together. Warmest condolences”Alexander Leicht, UNESCO, Paris, France.
“At SWEDESD we are honored and blessed to have known Dr Victor Tichaona Pesanayi. His passing is a loss for the environment and sustainability community, EEASA, SADC, and the UNESCO Global Action Programme. I cannot say in words what he has done for the sector and those who came to know him. Although we have lost him, his legacy as a model in our professional and personal life – no one can take away….”Dr Shepherd Urenje, SWEDESD, University of Uppsala, Sweden.
“Tichaona has left us a beautiful legacy. He has taught many of us how to live a life of kindness, care and always show the greatest generosity of spirit and mind. He will be sadly missed at the ELRC, in EEASA, in SADC and elsewhere”Prof Heila Lotz-Sisitka, Rhodes University
“I will miss Tich, a humble and dedicated personality who loved to touch everyone with care. I have always enjoyed working with Tich, and every time he spent a weekend in Windhoek he insisted that we go together to the Seventh Day Adventist Church…..” Dr Alex Kanyimba, University of Namibia, Windhoek, Namibia
“Even when his health was failing him, he actively participated in the last EEASA Conference in Zambia with zeal and dedication. He chaired sessions and volunteered to manage some sessions. Tich was a great listener and thoughtful person.”Dr Justin Lupele, Education for Sustainable Development Specialist, Managing Consultant Beehive Associates Limited, Zambia
Much love and honor to a truly great man, a caring friend, a Room 20 study mate, and OUR cherished Comrade in education that translates to sustainability in all practices – in thinking, learning, living and development. He will be missed by many but never will he be forgotten by those who were fortunate enough to have known him”… Dr Presha Ramsarup, Dr Caleb Mandikonza, Dr Dick Kachilonda
Dear Tich, although our words may never tell the full story of the man you were, may we grow with and grow from your legacy – let our appreciation and respect for your contributions be seen in the growth of EEASA and all that you stood for.”
17 April 2019