Prof. Virginia Lacerda Quartim is the dean of José Eduardo dos Santos University in Huambo Province
Virginia Lacerda Quartim, Dean of José Eduardo dos Santos University in Huambo, in Huambo Province, is the country’s only female head of a university. The position is referred to as President or Vice Chancellor in other countries.
Prof. Quartim won elections to the position in 2021 by a landslide, garnering more than 90 per cent of votes cast, according to Max Vicente, a professor in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the university.
In an interview with Africa Renewal in her office in Huambo, Ms. Quartim says she was motivated to run for the position “because I wanted to pave the way for more women.
“I want women and girls to believe that they have skills and capacity just as the men, but they must have the courage,” she says.
Prof. Quartim, who is a professor of agronomy, explains that women bring “unique rationality and sensitivity to decision-making processes, which can foster more inclusivity.”
With inclusivity, she adds: “We are talking about achieving harmonious development of the country.”
She is immensely popular among students and faculty, a development her colleague Mr. Vicente attributes to her leadership style.
“She is direct and tough; she is very nice but firm. “She fights all the time for the interest of the university, and we all love her,” says Mr. Vicente.
She has extraordinary insight into the running of the university with a student population of more than 10,000.
“She has been teaching in the university for more than 30 years. So, she understands us, she understands our needs, how to take the university to the next level,” he says.
Prof. Quartim says the university has a reputation as a centre of excellence, developing students who are contributing in diverse ways to the society.
Partnership with UNCTAD
Currently, the José Eduardo dos Santos University is partnering with the Angolan government, the United Nations Conference for Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and the European Union (EU) to implement a project that empowers women in honey production.
The project is under UNCTAD’s Transforming4Trade initiative which seeks new avenues for diversification and the “development of competitive value chains, increased support for entrepreneurship, exploring regional and global value chains,” according to Paul Akiwumi, the organization’s Africa director.
Mr. Vicente is the university’s focal point for the Transforming4Trade project that also involves several students.
When it comes to gender equality, Angola has a relatively progressive reputation in women’s participation in particular, top political positions.
In a recent interview with Africa Renewal the Permanent Representative of Angola to the United Nations, Ambassador Francisco José da Cruz, said that women occupy about 40 per cent of top positions in government, including that of Vice President.
Prof. Quartim hopes there will be more women heads of universities in Angola in the near future.
The José Eduardo dos Santos University, named after the former President of Angola, has a rich history.
Founded in the early 1990s, it has been a beacon of education and research in central Angola. The university offers a wide range of programs in sciences, humanities, and technology, reflecting the diverse educational needs of the Angolan population.
The city of Huambo
The city of Huambo, where the university is located, is one of Angola’s most significant urban centres and has played a crucial role in the country’s history.
Founded in the early 20th century during the colonial era, Huambo was known as Nova Lisboa (New Lisbon) until 1975. It has been a site of major cultural and political activities, contributing significantly to the independence and post-independence history of Angola.
Throughout its tumultuous history, particularly during the Angolan Civil War, Huambo faced considerable challenges.
However, the city has emerged as a symbol of resilience and reconstruction. The presence of José Eduardo dos Santos University in Huambo underscores the city’s commitment to education and progress.
The university’s impact
The university’s impact extends beyond academics. It is a vital contributor to Huambo’s economy and cultural life, hosting various community engagement programmes and cultural events.
These activities not only enrich the students’ experience but also strengthen the bond between the university and the local community.
In recent years, the university has focused on sustainable development and community-based projects.
The honey production project is an example of this commitment.
These initiatives not only provide practical skills to students but also contribute to the economic and social development of Huambo and Angola at large.
Prof. Quartim envisions a university that not only excels in academics but also plays a pivotal role in shaping a more equitable and prosperous Angola.
Mr. Vicente says Professor’s leadership is about managing the present as well as envisioning and building a better future for the university, its students and the wider community.