Theresa Gamuchirai Mudanga, an eighteen year old turning nineteen teenager, appears relaxed from stitching and washing of a torn body, that had been involved in an accident. Her fellow student Chipo Sarayi, 26,is tongue tied by her boldness. She can only exclaim, “Ah, ah, ah, this girl, this girl is…so, so, fearless. This is during her first week in the mortuary. Defying all expectations and doubts she goes on to complete her certificate after a month of training with a Harare, Zimbabwe, Based School of Mortuary Sciences.
Through the month she has covered body wash, burials and body removals from hospitals, community and funeral counseling to the bereaved. Despite, meeting challenges that included being caught up in a conflict between bereaved in-laws whilst on duty, handling decomposed bodies, and mastering cultural aspects of funeral rites, she was able to graduate with her head up and she looks forward to committing her life to the profession.
In addition to her tender years, she is diminutive in stature, standing at 1.5m and weighing about 50kg. She is last born of two, a boy and girl, and stays in Harare’s Eastville Park. She has also been passionate about working in the industry, since Form 3, in 2018.
“When we visited Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, all the students and teachers were afraid of the mortuary, but I wanted to get into it. From then onwards I wanted to work as a mortician. The opportunity to train as a mortician came when I visited a friend who is a vendor near Doves and Vineyard. Seeing funeral parlours vehicles I made enquiries and ended up getting information on how I could train. I enrolled and am delighted to have completed. I look forward to owning my own funeral parlour, in the future.”
She sees being a mortician as a way to rise and become a success and inspiration to others. She also pays tribute to the Head of Cedarwood School of Mortuary Sciences and Founder of Cedarwood Memorial Trust Mr Johan Yadyo, whom she affectionately calls father in recognition of his mentorship as well as to Mr. Amos Matiyasi Banda, her tutor.
She is in a profession that most people hardly understand. Many parents and guardians discourage their children from working in the Funeral industry due to cultural and social misconceptions. A matron at a hospital in Harare vehemently discouraged her niece from training in mortuary sciences.
The niece only began training after getting guidance and counseling from the Head of the School. Interestingly, most of the people training in Mortuary Sciences and going on to become morticians, undertakers, funeral consultants, funeral counselors, autopsy assistants, home based care worker are women. This has helped destroy the myth that morticians and undertakers are rough, tough, mean, drunken and carefree men. After all a number of people have WWF’s Undertaker in mind, whenever the word undertaker is spoken.