First Lady hands over 100 scholarships from UN Tourism Patron of Tourism and Hospitality First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa hands over a scholarship from United Nations Tourism to Charmaine Mugwagwa at Zimbabwe House yesterday.

Tendai RupapaSenior Reporter

FIRST LADY Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa yesterday handed over United Nations tourism scholarships from Spain’s IE University to 100 students emphasising the importance of strengthening high quality education in tourism to unlock its full potential, promote traditional dishes and foster employment creation.

United Nations Tourism secretary-general Mr Zurab Pololikashvili granted Zimbabwe the scholarships through Dr Mnangagwa in Spain at the end of last year in appreciation of her ingenuity, dedication and hard work in promoting gastronomy tourism.

He described Amai Mnangagwa as a leading African gastronomy champion. 

They are online academy open certificate scholarships.

IE University in the Spanish capital, Madrid, is one of the world’s leading business institutions which shape people with a global vision, humanistic approach as well as an entrepreneurial spirit.

As a motivational factor, the First Lady shared her personal history and how she persevered and succeeded, defying the odds that were heavily stacked against her.

Amai Mnangagwa, who is the country’s patron for Tourism and Hospitality, has a deep appreciation of the tourism and hospitality sector in which she holds a university degree from Switzerland and a Masters degree from the Midlands State University.

She is currently a PhD student with the Midlands State University focusing on tourism and hospitality.

Yesterday, Dr Mnangagwa held an interactive session with the beneficiaries during which she spoke on the importance of traditional dishes, their health benefits and how they are prepared.

Patron of Tourism and Hospitality First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa hands over a scholarship from United Nations Tourism to Brian Damson while Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Professor Amon Murwira and Deputy Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Tongai Mnangagwa look on at Zimbabwe House yesterday.

Beneficiaries of the scholarships are mainly learners in the tourism and hospitality industry, food science and culinary arts and hotel catering drawn from tertiary institutions around the country’s 10 provinces.

They represented Midlands State University, Chinhoyi University of Technology, Lupane University, Manicaland University of Applied Sciences, Great Zimbabwe University and the University of Zimbabwe.

Also included are learners from Gweru Polytechnic, Bulawayo Polytechnic, Mutare Polytechnic, Harare Polytechnic and Belvedere Teachers College.

Dr Mnangagwa said she was humbled by the gesture extended to her office by the global tourism promotion body in recognition of her commitment to strengthen high quality education in tourism.

The scholarship, she said, was awarded due to her efforts to promote community livelihoods at grassroots level through gastronomy tourism.

She shared her brief history to motivate the scholarship beneficiaries.

“Let me share with you my life history as a motivation factor. I personally grew up in a dysfunctional family where my parents had divorced and I had to take care of my two younger brothers. 

“We had no elderly person to take care of us. I only obtained my birth certificate through the assistance of the headmaster. 

“I later proceeded to school in Chishawasha where my mother was now working at St Dominic’s Mission. My mother would send fees and other sundries and I learnt hard and took my studies seriously. 

“Fortunately, I passed and Silveria House invited me over for a secretarial course because the poverty at our house was extreme. My mother would pray everyday for us her children she had left back home. I was a bright child in school. 

“After my course, I was then called to work in the ministry that was led by the late Minister Edgar Tekere, after him, it was taken over by the current Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Frederick Shava. 

“I did not stay long there before I went to work in the Office of the President. I worked there for many years. I did everything including training meant for men because where I came from was much more difficult than the training. 

“I later resigned and went to University of Zimbabwe for two years where I pursued tourism studies. I then applied to go outside the country and I went to Switzerland to further my studies. I was married then and I want to tell you how it all began and what it means to persevere.

“Personal development is critical, including achievement while marriage is acquired. Development comes with your own initiative.

Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality officials, tertiary institutions staff from all the provinces and students follow proceedings during the handover ceremony of United Nations Tourism scholarships by First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa at Zimbabwe House yesterday.

“Development is much more essential because no one can take it away from you. I said to my husband I was leaving for school to pursue my studies. I attended one of the best schools in Switzerland and did so well. You won’t believe I would wear a black and white uniform like the one you are putting on today. 

“I also passed there. I did not stop there, I enrolled for a Masters degree at MSU, now I am currently pursuing my PhD with the same university and my focus is on tourism and hospitality. If I did it, you can also do it my children,” she said.

The mother of the nation encouraged the learners to embrace the opportunity and let it not go to waste.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the Zimbabwean experience in empowering communities through traditional cuisine came to light in 2021 through my desire as the First Lady of the Republic of Zimbabwe to promote and preserve our culture and tradition. 

“Having realised the gap between generations in terms of consuming traditional foods and the imminent threats to our norms and values, I introduced the traditional cookout programme in Zimbabwe.

“This is meant, among other things, to encourage our people to consume more of traditional foods than fast foods in a way to ensure a healthy living through nutritious diet,” she said.

The programme, Dr Mnangagwa said, has become an annual event since 2021.

“In 2023 I extended the competitions to Sadc level with the regional gastronomy competitions that were held at Great Zimbabwe monuments on 25 May 2023, the date on which we commemorate Africa Day. Following the successful hosting of the Sadc gastronomy tourism, I was then invited to deliver a speech on women and community empowerment through promoting of traditional foods at the 8th edition of the UNWTO forum on Gastronomy in Spain in 2023. It was quite an experience as I exchanged ideas with other countries on the promotion of gastronomy tourism, women and communities empowerment,” she said.

Through her efforts to promote traditional gastronomy, Dr Mnangagwa said she was honoured by the then UNWTO which has rebranded to United Nations Tourism through scholarships in tourism courses.

“One hundred scholarships have been availed through my office. These scholarships are being distributed to beneficiaries across the country. The courses are meant to strengthen students’ knowledge in tourism including culinary tourism. 

“The idea of targeting students is mainly to empower our youths and instil the concept of traditional gastronomy from generation to generation. With these courses I expect new ideas coming in from our youngsters which will further elevate tourism and education to greater levels.”

“Let me hasten to say knowledge is power and a key to success. After completing their courses, students are expected to bring the knowledge gained to good use and share with others experiences gained so that we walk together our journey to the fulfilment of Vision 2030,” she said.

The mother of the nation urged the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development to nurture the skills gained from the scholarships for the benefit of students and their colleagues.

Tourism and Hospitality patron First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa who is also academically qualified in the sector, asks students questions to test their knowledge on traditional dishes during the hand over ceremony of scholarships from United Nations Tourism at Zimbabwe House yesterday.

“At this point Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to address the students as they embark on this journey to study tourism through this scholarship. 

“The field of tourism is dynamic, diverse and offers a multitude of opportunities for personal and professional growth. As you receive these scholarships, it is important to recognise the significance of this moment and potential impact it can have on your future.

“The tourism industry offers an array of career opportunities that cater for different interests and skills sets. With the rise of online platforms and digital marketing, there is a growing demand for professionals who understand the nuances of promoting destinations and experiences to a global audience,” she said.

The tourism industry, Dr Mnangagwa observed, presented exciting prospects but also came with problems that students were required to solve.

Education, she said, provides the learners with the foundation to address the challenges and contribute positively to the industry.

“Receiving scholarships to study tourism online is a significant achievement that opens doors to a world of possibilities. As you embark on this educational journey, remember that your dedication and passion for learning will shape your future in the tourism industry. 

“Embrace every opportunity to expand your knowledge, seek mentorship from industry professionals and remain committed to making a positive impact in the world of tourism,” she said.

Amai Mnangagwa enjoined the learners to work hard and not let the opportunity get to waste.

She also held an interactive session with the learners on how traditional grains and food are prepared.

“If you go out to buy sorghum mealie-meal that you did not personally prepare, most people will complain of sand in the sorghum meal. When you do it alone you do it perfectly. Tell me how you prepare traditional grains starting after harvesting?

The question solicited different responses with some having no knowledge of the process while some were spot on.

She further asked But how do you prepare a village chicken (road runner)?” the First Lady asked, triggering giggles and laughter from the learners whom most of them said they roast it but Amai Mnangagwa took them through the preparing and cooking process.

Tourism and Hospitality patron First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa who is also academically qualified in the sector, shares her tourism and hospitality experiences and knowledge with students she handed over scholarships from United Nations Tourism at Zimbabwe House yesterday.

“How do we prepare a goat head,” she further asked.

In response a learner explained that a fire is lit before the furs are burnt and cleaned out. 

After cleaning it, he said it is then boiled whole without cutting it.

Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development Minister Prof Amon Murwira gave a moving speech about the importance of maintaining one’s identity.

“We need to understand what a human being is. What is a person? What does it mean to be dehumanised? We want to take the direction of being colonized and defeat that when defeated what do you do? A human being is recognised with resources that are around him – land, water, minerals, gold, silver, trees, cattle, goats. 

“When defeated what do you do? We want to talk about something important, food. When you see a defeated people the first thing is that their granaries are burnt, they are told that your food is meaningless. You will then have to import food from those people who would have defeated you and that is complete defeat. 

If you only identify an apple as a fruit and not matamba, it is a clear sign of defeat. 

“I want to say when people are finished and they know that they are finished that day is your day of liberation because you take correct action. 

“But if you hear what defeat is and hear as I speak. What is my name? Amon. That’s a defeat. Murwira is not a defeat. But Amon means we were colonised and given names. English names could be a sign of defeat so we can take corrective measures. 

“The first element of defeat is shunning your food saying I don’t eat sorghum and be proud of it, it means you are perfectly defeated. And all of you will be doing so and after a generation and three generations you will be perfectly colonised. You will be going alone in that yoke of colonisation like cows. 

“This is a serious issue that should be talked about by generations. How to reverse the defeated society to a triumphal society. 

“All this comes from learning and therefore we want to know what it means to be educated. To be well-learned what will you be like? If you talk of a learned person, what are they like? You can’t be called learned by speaking English fluently yet the language professors are our mothers. 

“Speaking in English does not measure, it’s not a barometer of measuring learnedness. The Chinese, the Japanese and the Germans speak their languages,” he said. 

“We do not want hunger anymore as we now want to be rich after attaining the goals of Vision 2030,” the minister said.

Deputy Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry Cde Tongai Mnangagwa praised the First Lady for her determination to promote the country’s rich cultural diversity.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, the introduction of the Gastronomy concept in 2019 by Her Excellency, Dr A. Mnangagwa posed as an eye opener to the Tourism and Hospitality sector. Having realised the gap between generations in terms of consuming traditional foods and the imminent threats to our values through cultural dilution, Your Excellency, you introduced the Traditional Cookout Programme in Zimbabwe. This was meant, among other things, to encourage our people to consume more traditional foods than the Western foods, to ensure a healthy living. As Zimbabweans we have a target to fulfil as enunciated in the National vision to ensure “an upper middle income society by 2030” as such, a healthy society is a key pillar,” he said.

First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa who is a graduate in Tourism and Hospitality shares her experiences and knowledge with students before she handed over scholarships from United Nations Tourism at Zimbabwe House yesterday.

Cde Mnangagwa described traditional food as “a legacy that was left by our forefathers, hence we should also be able to push the button stick to our youngsters through preservation and knowledge transfer.”

“Indeed, your idea of rolling out the traditional Gastronomy Tourism through competitions ensured innovativeness and skills sharpening, through knowledge sharing amongst participants. Additionally, through your wisdom, as has been witnessed in the last editions of these competitions, roping in of the youths is critical as they are the young innovators, so goes the saying catch them young, to instil the idea in their DNA. 

“Youths are easy to grasp the concept, internalise it, and since these are the future leaders, they are able to influence policies positively. This will eventually culminate into the sustainability of the Gastronomy programme,” he said. 

The promotion of the country’s traditional cuisines, Deputy Minister Mnangagwa said, was an indelible mark of culture which the country, region and beyond should embrace fully. 

“The awarding of these scholarships by the tourism world governing body is a testament that your initiative, Amai, was not in vain but marks the beginning of a great transformation in gastronomy tourism. The cuisine story will never be the same in the country and beyond.

“I would like to assure you Amai that we will continue to work to ensure that the diverse traditional foods found in our country complement the various dishes at Continental tourism offering. This will be the platform upon which the world gets to see who we are as a people and as a region,” he said. 

The beneficiaries sang praises to the First Lady for her benevolence and extension of the scholarships to them.

Tarisai Chiyenga spoke on behalf of all the students.

The 100 students jubilantly display the scholarships they received from United Nations Tourism through Angel of Hope Foundation patron First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa at Zimbabwe House yesterday. Pictures: John Manzongo.

“On behalf of the students here we would like to say, thank you mother. It is an absolute honour to be selected for such a scholarship. I believe that all who have ears have heard that all of us have something that we are going to take and move on with from hence forth and I believe this opportunity is going to help us to be more involved in the tourism industry of Zimbabwe. Amai we won’t let you down and we promise to raise the flag high,” she said.

Tasha Kadozora from Manicaland State University could not hide her joy.

“I want to thank the First Lady for what she has done for us by bringing us these scholarships and for remembering us as students doing tourism. We say thank you mhamha and we are grateful for the opportunity that you have offered us as students in Zimbabwe and we promise to do great and further our studies in tourism and make you proud in Zimbabwe. 

“We have to explore our traditional foods more. There are some dishes that we do not know how to prepare so it’s our duty to research more about them and promote them,” she said.

Lenience Muposhi from the University of Zimbabwe echoed similar sentiments.

“I am currently studying Culinary Arts and Hotel Catering and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the First Lady for the scholarships that she has given us and we hope this is going to be a game changer as we give back to Zimbabwe,” she said.

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