The Death of an Evening Prayer: An Eulogy to Vespers Shimuzhila – Killed for seeking Knowledge and Enlightenment

Yesterday, Monday 8th October 2018 I was moved in pain when I saw the funeral procession of the University of Zambia student killed by Zambia Police’s raid of the University student premises following a student demonstration of last week. I had restrained myself from commenting heavily on this matter, but when I thought of my little girl who I hope will one day go to university, I was filled with rage and anger at that thought that one like her had just been killed for merely being a university student, in her room, a sanctuary.

Vespers could have been anyone’s daughter.

She is everyone’s daughter.

I am in pain.

A university of a place of learning. A place where knowledge is sought and expressed. A place where the ideals of the world we live in, beyond our immediate spheres are recorded, studied and enhanced for the betterment of mankind. For this reason, many nations in the world pride themselves in the quality of the universities they own, support and promote. And indeed, the difference between poor and developed nations boils down to knowledge. That a student should be killed while seeking knowledge and enlightenment ought to call for national concern beyond partisan politics.

I am sad.

I was a victim of police brutality too. I was smoked with teargas in my university room. I saw a student shot and nearly killed by the police. I saw others injured as they jumped off from their rooms running from the police. I had never imagined that I would live to see one killed in the same modus operandi of old.
I am hurt.

I am hurt that the life of a young female has been cut short by the carelessness of our system, a system that still relies on archaic methods of dealing with dissent. A system that has failed to evolve with society, and the needs and methods of youths. A system that cannot protect its brilliant students but instead kills them is a sick system! Our system is sick, and it needs healing.

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I never knew Vespers, and due to our police, I will never know her. From what I have heard, and her being a student in her graduation year, it is easy to see that she was a determined and dedicated young woman who had a bright future ahead of her. It is not easy to excel in education as a female in Zambia. That she made it to university and stayed afloat until her final year reveals not only true grit but heavy discipline. She set her life and career goals early on, determined to go UNZA from her home village to see the world and become an independent and well-educated woman. Vespers must have known the importance of education, and she pursued it diligently. She knew what she needed and never shillyshallied in pursuing her life goals. Staying afloat at UNZA is not easy, especially for females who may easily fall prey to sops and temptations of the city life. Notwithstanding this, Vespers worked diligently, and with graduation in sight, she was to receive the prize of her hard work – a University of Zambia degree.
Alas, our daughter has been killed by those charged with protecting her, at a place aimed at enhancing her education. Her sanctuary became her death.
We a sick nation, and we need healing.

Those responsible for Vespers’ death should know that they have not killed just one student: They have killed the hopes and dreams of her mother, her father, her siblings, her friends, and subdued the potential of would have been children from a highly educated mother, subduing the social and economic development of Zambia.
Vespers’ death is the death of the aspirations of young women in Zambia, and this is most unfortunate.

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You’re a beautiful girl from Namwala,
Nourished by the shores of our rivers,
The pride of your parents,
Last night, UNZA, your home of the last four years,
Lit you an everlasting candle,
Lighting up your path to heaven,
So that you won’t have to hide anymore from the evils of this world,
There will be no teargas,
Or trigger hungry ill trained bandits in uniform disguised as servicemen,
In our tears, deep in our hearts, we cry forever young,
May your death not be in vain.

Your name is the name of a sunset evening prayer service in the Catholic Church and Lutheran liturgies of the canonical hours. Shall we, therefore, ask the Lord our God as in Psalm 122 that he guides us always?
Our eyes are turned to the Lord; we look for his mercy.
To you I lift up my eyes,   to you who dwell in the heavens.
Like the eyes of a servant watching his master, like the eyes of a maid on her mistress’s hands, so we keep our eyes on the Lord our God, as we wait for his kindness.
Take pity on us, Lord, take pity: we have had our fill of contempt.
Our souls have had their fill of the laughter of the rich, of the contempt of the proud.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.

To us, and to you at UNZA, the survivors of this brutality, we must now determine to have as unwavering a resolution in the field of national policing as we may have to pray on October 18th that the death of the young lady may have a happier outcome for those in the line of fire from our police and system.
To my colleagues in the political arena that have trivialized and politicized this, woe to you, that you use the unfortunate passing of a young soul for your political ambitions. Woe to those who defend the barbaric actions leading to the death of our young sister. Woe to those charged with the responsibility of protecting lives but would rather protect their bellies

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Farewell, Vespers. Soon, the years will slowly draw on us when your name shall be counted among the young of this nation who died to change the operation of our security people of the great nation of Zambia. We will stand up for you, we will speak for you, Vespers, and we will fight for you, that police reforms be instituted to safeguard the lives of all Zambians.

Lost to us, but not to her God. Lost from Earth, but entered heaven. Lost from all the labours, toils and perils, but entered into the everlasting peace and ever- advancing progress. Blessed be God, who gives us hope in this hour of pain and mourning and enables us to triumph, through him who hath redeemed us.

Rest in Eternal Peace and Everlasting Beauty, Vespers.


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