First Lady’s Elementary Club spreads wings . . . as she interacts with Uzumba kids
Tendai Rupapa in UZUMBA
IN a setting reminiscent of a grandmother and her grandchildren, First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa on Saturday shared jokes, lessons and a mouth-watering meal with hundreds of primary school learners in Uzumba as part of her Elementary Club to promote good morals in children.
She spoke candidly against drug abuse and premature indulgence in sexual activities at the expense of education which she emphasised as the key to a bright future.
The meal she served the children comprised roasted and stewed chicken, beef, rice, potatoes, sadza, vegetables and salad.
The children, mostly between Grade One and Six, had a chance to ask the mother of the nation questions and to learn a lot from her.
They also went home with various school reading materials and food hampers, thanks to the First Lady’s Angel of Hope Foundation.
Dr Mnangagwa, who is the country’s patron of the Environment, led in the planting of trees at Machekera Primary School.
Later the children were all smiles after the First Lady joined them on the dance floor. Afterwards, the children hugged her.
The trees included 1 000 gumtrees, 80 lemon, 70 guava, 70 water berry and 20 bottle brush trees.
“How are you my grandchildren,” she said and the children replied almost in unison: “We are fine Ambuya (grandmother) and we hope you are fine too.”
The First Lady then outlined the agenda of the interface.
“The issue that has brought me here is new and has never happened before.
“ I have come so that we discuss as grandmother and her grandchildren so that we build a good foundation for you. You are to say all you want to your grandmother, be free to ask anything and allow me to ask anything as you also respond,” she said.
“But do you know me, my beloved grandchildren?” she asked to which the children variously identified her as Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa or Amai Mnangagwa.
Some of the children shared their names and the schools they attend.
Rosa Marumisa, who is in Grade 6 at Star Day Care Primary School left the gathering in stitches when she said:
“Excuse me grandmother? You have asked us where we learn, ko imimiwo where did you do your primary school education?” The First Lady thanked the child for asking and shared her brief background with the children.
“Thank you my granddaughter for asking. I attended a primary school in Mashonaland Central Province. That time things were difficult as we went to school barefooted and we would share pencils with others but that did not deter me. Instead, it gave me strength to work hard in my studies.
A Grade Six pupil Rosa Marumisa freely asks First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa questions and where she did her primary education during an elementary club interactive session with learners in Uzumba.
“Today I have come to give you words of encouragement, especially with regards to education.
“There may be challenges but work hard in school because education is key vazukuru,” she said.
Dr Mnangagwa sought to know the children’s friends whereupon some girls mentioned boys as their friends and vice versa.
“Now if you befriend a person of the opposite sex, what will you be discussing?” she asked.
The children said they will be just playing together since they had not yet reached the age to date.
Other children, however, said some among them were dating.
When the First Lady asked why this was so, the children said they will be following the footsteps of some grown up people who do that in children’s presence.
“It is because of social media where people watch pornographic material and then want to copy that even though this is bad. Also some elders do adult stuff in our presence and this sometimes prompts us to experiment,” some of the children said.
The First Lady said it was unacceptable for children to be involved in intimate relationships at a tender age.
“My grandchildren, it is unacceptable to sleep with a boy or for a boy to sleep with a girl before the time is ripe. Are you aware that even children in Grade 3 are falling pregnant? Now when you fall pregnant, what then happens,” she asked.
“This will cause you to drop out of school or contract sexually-transmitted diseases,” the children said.
Dr Mnangagwa spoke out candidly against engaging in sexual activities at a tender age.
“We say no to those who play with people who are older than them to prevent them from sexually abusing you or introducing you to drugs. I therefore urge you to put your education first my grandchildren,” she said.
She said they were now entering into lessons and asked the children what dzinza (clan) means whereupon the children gave various responses as Amai corrected those who would have answered wrongly.
“Which household chores do you perform,” Dr Mnangagwa asked and the children said cleaning the house, laundry, cooking, cleaning plates, herding cattle and fetching water among other chores.
When asked about things that stress them at home, the children mentioned domestic violence between their parents, cases where fathers squandered money at beerhalls at the expense of their families and cases where some fathers take drugs before returning home to abuse their families.
A pupil who is hard of hearing and is impaired of speech said some people took advantage of their disability to abuse them, even sexually.
One of the pupils said he was being shunned by his peers because he lives with a disability.
First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa observes as a boy imitates how those hooked on drugs behave during her elementary club interactive session with learners in Uzumba, Mashonaland East. — Pictures: John Manzongo.
Both pupils used sign language while their teacher interpreted.
The children said parents no longer had time with them as they were always on social media thus failing to get time to address issues affecting children even at school.
“We are stressed by parents who lock us in the homes without anything to eat as they spend time at beerhalls. Some parents are dabbling in muti and acquiring goblins to enrich themselves while sacrificing children,” some of the children said.
Dr Mnangagwa said the issues raised by the children were heartbreaking and promised to have an interface with parents.
She taught the children about the environment and the need to protect trees and forests.
The children learnt that trees provide oxygen, the need to plant more to curb soil erosion and mitigate the effects of climate change.
On drugs, the First Lady sought to know what was intoxicating youths these days and she was give a list of drugs that include glue, dombo, guka, gronco, musombo, weed, Kamungozodo and Cocaine.
“Is there anyone here who takes drugs?” Amai Mnangagwa asked and the children said no.
The First Lady agreed with the children and coined the slogan: “No to drugs, no to drug peddlers, no to those bringing drugs to children. Do not affect us as young children.”
“My grandchildren when someone seeks to give you drugs, report them to the police because I do not want anyone to disturb you as I already see doctors, nurses and pilots among you,” she said.
Dr Mnangagwa sought to know what drugs affect and the children said they affected one’s internal organs.
“What bad things have drugs caused?” the First Lady asked and in response, the children said drugs had caused the death of people, when intoxicated people commit crimes like murder, violence, stealing, rape and driving under the influence causes accidents.
The children said a person who takes drugs acts like a zombie in what is popularly known as “kusticker”.
Dr Mnangagwa asked what “Kusticker” was and the children demonstrated to her saying they saw this at growth points and in their communities.
First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa hugs a learner during her elementary club interactive session in Uzumba, Mashonaland East.
“That is caused by your internal organs that will be damaged. If you see someone taking drugs at school, what do you do?” the First Lady asked.
The children said they would report to the teacher or headmaster.
“Today I have made you police officers to watch over one another at school and ensure drugs are not brought here. Are there people who move around with dropped trousers who put on many trousers at once,” Dr Mnangagwa said, triggering laughter from the children saying in their rural areas it was rare seeing someone dressed like that.
“I am happy that we have taught one another as we played games my grandchildren. Did I get any friends here?” she asked as the children affirmed that indeed there were her friends at the top of their voices.
“As my friends, you are supposed to tell those who failed to come what we have agreed here. I have heard what you have said about parents who are neglecting you and I shall discuss with them to solve these issues,” she said.
Mashonaland East Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Aplonia Munzverengwi paid tribute to the First Lady for her all-encompassing programmes which benefitted all citizens.
“We are happy to receive you here in Uzumba where schoolchildren from grade 1-6 are gathered. We were happy when you indicated that you would come to meet the children and discuss with them issues to do with our culture so that they remain on the correct path. What is more elating is that none of them will forget that which you would have taught them because children comprehend fast. It shall be a life lesson for them. We welcome your programme which is imparting moral lessons. We are grateful you visit all areas and we are blessed as a nation to have a mother of your calibre who visits all areas in tandem with the President’s mantra of leaving no place and no one behind,” she said.
As the health ambassador, Dr Mnangagwa reminded attendees that covid-19 was still raging on and people needed to remain vigilant.