First Lady, ZOU take women empowerment to rural areas Beneficiaries of Angel of Hope Foundation and ZOU partnership celebrate the opportunity to pursue courses of choice during the launch by First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa in Lupane yesterday. — Pictures: John Manzongo.

Tendai Rupapa in LUPANE

IN a first of its kind gesture, First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa yesterday took her mission to empower women and girls through open learning to Matabeleland North Province where Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU) deans of faculty unpacked the various courses being offered and what they involve.

The courses are offered for free by ZOU through its partnership with the First Lady’s Angel of Hope Foundation.

Matabeleland North becomes the country’s first rural province to benefit from the partnership which has been launched in Harare and Bulawayo.

Amai Mnangagwa, who has a passion for women empowerment, is not living anyone behind.

ZOU lecturers including professors and PhD holders who were accompanying the First Lady, unpacked the courses for the people.

They brought course outlines, which one would be given immediately after registering for a course.

Under the programme, beneficiaries are permitted to take up as many courses as they can handle.

All districts of Matabeleland North Province including Hwange, Nkayi, Lupane, Tsholotsho, Bubi, Umguza and Binga were represented at the occasion, which was held in strict adherence to World Health Organisation (WHO) protocols of Covid-19 prevention such as masking up, sanitising and maintaining social distance.

Courses on offer include Business Management and Entrepreneurship, Law, Basic Computer Literacy, Early Child Development and Nurse Aid-Palliative Care for Elderly.

Beneficiaries of Angel of Hope Foundation and Zimbabwe Open University partnership follow proceedings during the launch in Lupane yesterday.

Under the nurse aide’s course, beneficiaries will be taught the introduction to care giving, infection control measures, home accidents and prevention of pressure – bowel and bladder care. 

They will also study exercises and general hygiene, nutrition and feeding and how to deal with emergencies.

The counselling programme has topics like rationale for counselling, when to do counselling, relationship building, basic counselling skills and communication skills. Learners will also cover common counselling issues and the attendant counselling approaches. 

An agriculture programme is also being offered along with training in basic sign language and disability awareness, cultural heritage under the Faculty of Arts, Culture and Heritage.

In her address, the mother of the nation quoted scholars who have said the surest way to keep a people down was to educate the men and neglect the women.

“If you educate a man you simply educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a family. Another visionary from Ghana said educating of women is of greater importance and the most important effect of education is its impact on a future generation if we educate women. We are saying we have entered school today. These certificates are not for showing off to your grandchildren without anything to show for it.

“When you have learnt, it means also children in the home benefit because that is where you start teaching your children. Look in the communities for how many are doing the same programme as you are, join hands after acquiring knowledge and skill and teach other women as well so that they also benefit,” she said.

The First Lady expressed hope that the imparting of skills to women would help end cases where some women committed suicide after their spouses would have splurged the family’s income on beer and other non-essentials.

“We have seen women committing suicide after the husband steals the crop or has blown the money they worked for together. We have come to end this by empowering so that you will be able to start your own income generating projects. 

“Angel of Hope and ZOU are saying no to that where you are, you are a leader and once you have learnt, use the knowledge and skills wisely. 

“We want mothers to understand the cost of the goods you order, the price at which you sell and the profit. You can learn all this through the business management and entrepreneurship programme. After these training programmes, you will learn how to market your produce if you are into farming. I have heard there are many courses and do all and not wait for one,” she said.

Amai Mnangagwa implored the beneficiaries to study different courses if they are from the same community so that their communities benefit from various skills. 

She further urged women to unite and form a strong ECD service for their community if the majority choose to do ECD programme.

“If we all open ECD centres separately in one area, some will not have learners resulting in animosities. We would have started hatred through things that we can fix. Also when we unite like this, we have cases where there are those who cannot work properly with others. They gossip so that others pull out. Others show laziness while others steal. All these things do not take our programme anywhere. We want unity and love to prevail in our communities,” she said to wild applause. 

“Education is an indispensable means of realising human potential. Education has a vital role in empowering women and girls in particular and can lift marginalised adults and children out of poverty by providing them with the means to participate fully in their communities and socially. Thus, education seems to be the answer for all our community problems, the answer for all the problems of the world, when you really analyse it.

“Quality education, particularly for the underprivileged communities is a prerequisite to the sustainable development of individuals, their communities and the nation at large. Thus, Angel of Hope in partnership with Zimbabwe Open University for community empowerment through open learning takes quality education as contextualised worthwhile education that responds to social needs of particular communities regulated by the principle of entitlement.”

ZOU Pro-vice chancellor of academic studies and learning activities, Professor Ermson Nyakatawa implored the beneficiaries to take their studies seriously to reap maximum benefits in future.

“Our partnership with Amai strives to transform the lives of communities by offering short courses to women and young girls for free. Thus today this partnership is being launched her in Matabeleland North Province to help empower our daughters, our mothers, sisters, aunties, grandmothers and even our sons through knowledge sharing and imparting skills according to interest and capacity,” he said.

Prof Nyakatawa said ZOU vowed never to look back, but to complement the First Lady’s immeasurable philanthropic work from its own corner until no one was left behind. 

Speaking at the same occasion, Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Richard Moyo praised the First Lady’s programme as visionary.

“This initiative Amai is another one of your initiatives meant to consolidate your humanitarian concerns. Your Excellency, these courses will empower women and ensure that they are involved in dignified work as they fed their families. Everyone interested in applying should be able to find a course they can register for the courses do not require any qualifications,” he said.

Equally upbeat, were beneficiaries of the programme.

Priscilla Dube (30) from Sobendle was grateful that the First Lady’s initiative had given her a chance of complete her education since she ended in Form Two due to financial constraints.

“I ended school in Form 2 and now I have three children. I was failing to make ends meet. My parents did not have money for me to proceed with my education. I am grateful to have met the First Lady who gave me the opportunity to go to university and acquire knowledge and skill so that I would be able to start using my hands. I never thought I would achieve this feat and for that I am very thankful. My wish is to be able to send my children to school thus I will study under agriculture and have knowledge on poultry rearing,” she said. 

Mrs Agnes Mpala (57) from Hwange, who is also a mother of three, was equally happy to have benefitted from the programme.

“Things were difficult for me because I had nowhere to start from as someone who ended her education in Form One. Today I met my mother who encouraged me to go back to school, University to be precise. She gave us life lessons on the importance of using our hands and starting projects. I have to start working for myself and not rely on handouts. I had no knowledge on animal husbandry, but I will, after attending the lectures, know how to keep these animals so that together with my husband we will start a project that will sustain us. I thank the First Lady heartily for what she has done,” she said.

59-year-old Mrs Medelina Khoza from Shabula in Lupane said she was widowed in 2007 and lives with her children and grandchildren.

“Life was unbearable as I have a child with a hearing impairment but today Amai has brought us a university on our doorstep. I intend to do a course in sign language so that I can be able to effectively communicate with my child. I will also study Agriculture and learn how to rear chickens, a project which will sustain us as a family,” she said.

Mr Samson Siamuchembu of Binga who accompanied his wife said he would make sure his wife, who ended her education in Grade Seven, takes advantage of the First Lady’s programme to acquire a course.

In support of his wife, Mr Siamuchembu said he would take advantage of the programme and choose courses to study, so that together with his wife they will be able to look after their children.

Amai Mnangagwa donated food hampers and toiletries to those with disabilities and the elderly.

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