Cultural experts rally behind First Lady’s programme

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Harare Bureau
ACADEMICS and cultural experts have thrown their weight behind First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa’s “Dzidziso yaAmai muNhanga/Gota/Ixhiba yevachirikuyaruka” programme, which is tailored to tackle social problems affecting youths and impart knowledge of cultural and traditional value systems.

Amai Mnangagwa yesterday took her ongoing programme to Makonde in Mashonaland West Province.

Speaking on the sidelines of the programme at the Kore Kore Cultural Village, Professor Mickias Masiyiwa — a lecturer in the Department of History, Heritage and Knowledge Systems at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) — said it was praiseworthy that the First Lady was using her position to influence positive change in communities.

“I teach indigenous knowledge systems — issues that have to do with culture and arts. We are at the Kore Kore Cultural Village in view of Amai’s programme in which she is trying to promote the resuscitation of our African cultural values so that they are understood by our young generations that are getting lost,” he said.

For the First Lady to conduct her programme at the village, he added, it indicates to children the importance of local cultural values.

“It helps to show that there is need to reconnect our young people to our cultural values, which are getting lost. This Kore Kore Cultural Village compliments the importance of the Nhanga/Gota/Ixhiba programme that was conceptualised by Amai after having seen that most young people have lost their African cultural values. The young people in our country are facing a lot of problems that involve child abuse, drug abuse and juvenile delinquency.

Some are dropping out of school because of early pregnancies, health problems, sexually transmitted infections, and so on. Our mother is of the idea that if our cultural values are revived and taught to young people, some of these problems they are facing can actually be prevented. So this is the national objective of this Nhanga/Gota/Ixhiba programme. This Kore Kore Village is very much connected to Amai’s objective in the sense that it symbolises the cultural values that Amai is seeking to sensitise young people to.”

Prof Masiyiwa said academics who belong to the Faculty of Arts and Humanities study culture, human life, their beliefs, culture, traditions and values.

“Through the First Lady’s programme, we are putting our theoretical ideas into practice. Universities are now operating under Education 5.0, which was previously Education 3.0, which just included research, teaching and community service, but now they have added industrialisation and innovation. What it means is that when we come here we are trying to put our ideas into practice.”

He thanked the First Lady for coming up with the project. Another academic, Professor Francis Mutandirofa, said when the First Lady started her programme, she called for expert help.

“She called us and said children nowadays had lost their cultural values and (asked) what could be done for them to grow up morally upright. We then sat down and mapped the way forward. We agreed to engage chiefs and their spouses since they are the custodians of culture and tradition. The First Lady is advocating that children have good morals for the development of the country, of which our culture and norms are important factors,” said Prof Mutandirofa.

In a separate interview, Mashonaland West provincial arts and culture officer Ms Tarisai Gusho said the educative programme could not have come at a better time.

“We want to thank Amai for this programme that has been brought to the Kore Kore Village today. Her objective is to teach children about Gota/Nhanga/Ixhiba so that they understand what it is and its functions. Our children were growing up without this knowledge and the coming in of the First Lady with the project has made us proud. She has managed to gather children from all districts in Mashonaland West. Some have come from Kariba, others from Mhondoro-Ngezi, and (they) have come with chiefs and their spouses.

“We have many cases of children who, when they attain the age of 14, become stubborn and think they can do as they please. But today she has come to train children to revert to the values of old, like how they associate with boys. This programme that has come with the First Lady has marketed this village as a place where children can be taught good behaviour. Our children did not know about this place. They did not know what happens here, so this programme has helped us as a province,” she said.

The programme is covering both boys and girls. While she would be with the girls in the Nhanga together with the chiefs’ wives and elderly women, boys, too, will be getting advice from chiefs and elderly men in the community at a court that is known as “Dare”.

Speaking to the girls yesterday, the First Lady said they wanted to teach about what was expected of them.

“We have come to teach the girl-child what is expected of her and the importance of her sleeping hut — Nhanga — and other attendant issues outside this space. These teachings are not for you to rush and run your own homes, but we are preparing you so that when the time is ripe, you will be well-equipped with knowledge. When some girls start developing breasts, they consider themselves ripe for marriage, but that is not the case. Every girl must understand that her body is the temple of the Lord, and not to be defiled by men like brothers-in-law hiding behind horseplay.”

She made reference to thousands of girls who dropped out of school after falling pregnant during the national lockdown introduced to fight the coronavirus.

“We are saying no to girls who rush to sleep with boys. Treasure your education because you cannot focus on more than one thing at a time. Ukamhanyisa mhembwe mbiri hapana imwe chete yaunobata. There is nothing for free on your body as a girl-child. You must dress decently in public,” said the First Lady.

One elderly woman said the moment a girl starts bedding men, she loses respect for her parents.

“The moment you start bedding boys, you even lose respect for your mother. You contract sexually transmitted diseases and end your education midway. Early sexual relationships increase abortions and baby dumping,” she said.

On their part, the girls said they sometimes miss school while on their monthly periods owing to challenges in accessing sanitary wear, whose cost was beyond their reach. The First Lady, elderly women, chiefs’ wives, Minister of State for Mashonaland West Provincial Affairs and Devolution Mary Mliswa-Chikoka and Deputy Minister of Women’s Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Cde Jennifer Mhlanga taught the girls on menstrual health. Amai Mnangagwa also educated the girls about reusable sanitary pads.

Last year, the Angel of Hope Foundation patron launched a nationwide reusable pads project as part of measures to improve menstrual hygiene. Learner Welfare, Psychology Services, Special Needs Education chief director in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Ms Kwadzanai Nyanungo, who was also in the Nhanga, said Government had made provision for the supply of sanitary wear in rural schools.

“The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education received an allocation from Treasury to the tune of $200 million for the procurement of sanitary wear for female learners in rural primary and secondary schools in 2020. That amount was used to purchase sanitary wear to be utilised by our learners. As you are aware, most of the year 2020 was affected by the Covid-19 lockdown measures and we are in the process of distributing that to our learners as we have opened schools. Furthermore, for the year 2021, the Government of Zimbabwe allocated $500 million for the same purpose for rural schools to enable female learners to benefit. We are in the process of procuring to distribute to our learners,” she said.

Ms Nyanungo, however, spoke against some organisations that were going around schools issuing contraceptives and encouraging same-sex marriages in the name of “rights”. She said the organisations were enticing children with money for fees to achieve their goals. Amai Mnangagwa, who is also the country’s health ambassador, thanked the Government for its intervention to ease the plight of the girl-child.

Continuing with her Nhanga lessons, she decried the use of drugs by youths, both boys and girls. In the Gota was Makonde legislator Cde Kindness Paradza, who is also the Deputy Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services; chiefs and elderly men teaching boys. The girls and boys were also equipped with practical skills on household chores.

The First Lady later had an interactive session with the elderly, during which she asked them on efforts they were making in their communities and homes to promote good morals. Gogo Christina Mukaratirwa left the crowd in stitches when she narrated how she went after a man who had impregnated her minor.

“I left my homestead and headed for Chinhoyi where my child had eloped to an elderly man and collected my daughter, though I did not have bus fare for the return trip. The man refused to give us money and I grabbed two of his blankets which I sold for the trip back home. After my daughter gave birth, I put her back in school while I looked after my grandchild. When she completed her Ordinary Level, I took her to a teacher training college and, as we speak, she is now a qualified teacher. My daughter realised her mistake and repented,” Gogo Mukaratirwa said.

The First Lady commended her for valuing her daughter’s education. She gave the children who participated in the programme food hampers, school bags, stationery, school textbooks and reusable pads. Chiefs were given cotton seed and fertiliser, while chiefs’ wives received food hampers and sorghum seed. The mother of the nation implored community leaders, the elderly, chiefs and their spouses to continue having counselling sessions with children to make them grow up morally upright.

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