Q&A with School of Arts coordinator Zamile Khuzwayo

Posted on August 28, 2020

“It is like playing good cop/bad cop constantly, while keeping things running smoothly,” says Zamile Khuzwayo, coordinator for UP’s Symphony Orchestra and Symphonic Winds and head of Azalea Residence, about her duties.

Between her duties as coordinator for UP’s Symphony Orchestra and Symphonic Winds, head of Azalea Residence, studying, running a mentorship programme for girls and being a mom to two toddlers (among other things!), Zamile Khuzwayo took time out to tell Tukkievaria about herself, her work and to offer women a few rousing words of wisdom.

TV: Tell us about yourself and your educational qualifications.

ZK: I have a BA Music degree from UP and am completing a PR and Marketing diploma through the Digital School of Marketing. I serve as a board member for the West Coast Youth Orchestra and for Okuhle (a sports, arts and culture NPO), and I am a member of the Retail Network Stokvel. I also run a mentorship programme for young women.

I am a mother of two extremely energetic toddler boys who keep me on my toes – I enjoy their zest for life! I love people, and love them best when I can make them laugh. This feeds my hunger to lend a helping hand whenever possible and to try to make this world a place where we all feel our needs are met and our hearts are filled with love.

TV: What is your role at UP?

ZK: I am a coordinator for UP’s Symphony Orchestra and Symphonic Winds under the School of the Arts. I am also head of Azalea Residence, the only female residence on Hillcrest Campus, where our motto is “fiercely you”. I have learnt so much as head of Azalea – the ladies teach me daily about the will to pursue your truth regardless of the standards and norms the world might dictate to you. I love my work at UP and I am truly blessed to work with the young people who I am so fond of.

TV: What are some of the challenges of your job?

ZK: My work involves running and managing a limited budget, organising logistics and operations, implementing university regulations and disciplinary measures, and being the general “no” messenger. It is like playing good cop/bad cop constantly while keeping things running smoothly. My work also involves acts of empathy and compassion, genuine interest in someone’s interests and an awareness of circumstances that might present challenges in a student’s life.

TV: What do you consider to be a memorable highlight in your career thus far?

ZK: In 2015, we decided to re-launch an all-student UP orchestra as well as a brand-new full Symphonic Winds orchestra. Our new take on the type of music we performed opened up a completely new collaborative space with UP faculties that we still enjoy today. This approach also opened up the world of orchestral music to a wider audience.

TV: What keeps you motivated?

ZK: Every day is a brand-new gift that we should not take for granted. We were all created to contribute to the world we live in, and even if yesterday did not go as planned, tomorrow is your special chance to try all over again.

TV: What are your academic aspirations and for your life in general?

ZK: By the time I leave UP, I hope my colleagues and the students I have worked with will remember me as a person who did her best to be of service. I hope to achieve the kind of wisdom that will enable me to be a better parent so that my children can experience the kind of upbringing my parents gave me. If my children can speak of me with respect and gratitude when I am no longer on Earth, I would have achieved a lot.

TV: How do you balance work and family life?

ZK: While it is difficult, it is manageable when you work in an environment that is supportive. There are times when I wish there were more hours in the day, but my clarity on what my priorities are helps me. No workplace is perfect and no family is perfect. However, some places are a little better at creating micro-communities where we can support one another so that we can fulfil our dual roles as employees and parents successfully. I work with women and men who are a small support structure for me. I am grateful to be able to support my children financially – we live in a country where most people cannot say the same.

TV: What steps do you think should be taken to tackle gender-based violence?

ZK: There are different forms of gender-based violence. In terms of men harming women, we need to focus all preventative education towards men. I am baffled by how most actions are focused on teaching women how to stay safe rather than teaching men that they should not harm women. 

TV: What advice would you give to women today?

ZK: As women, we need to step into our power by ourselves. We need to occupy our spaces without the permission of men. We need to realise that we do not have to wait for men to promote us at work, to approve of our appearance, to validate our worth or to think of us favourably. Phrases such as, “She is a very smart woman,” are not a compliment. You are smart – period! Women need to realise that we do not need fixing and we certainly do not need to prove anything. If we are excellent, let that be because that individual is excellent based on his or her own merit.

Also, teach your sons well. Equip them to navigate a world where men and women are all considered equal human beings with different strengths and weaknesses but contribute equally to its betterment. Let us eradicate toxic male ideas by telling our sons that being emotional should be considered a human reaction rather than a typical female reaction!


- Author Khayalethu Nocanda

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