Russian varsity honours First Lady for her contribution to education
Tendai Rupapa-Senior Reporter
FIRST Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa yesterday received another feather in her cap when she was honoured with a gold medal by Vernadsky Crimean Federal University of Russia in recognition of her contribution to the education sector in Zimbabwe through her Angel of Hope Foundation.
The university also offered scholarships to her Angel of Hope Foundation beneficiaries.
The award was presented by the Vice Chancellor of the university Rector, Professor, Dr of Engineering Andrei Falaleev, who is part of a 16-member Russian delegation that is in the country.
The delegation will visit the country’s universities to assess areas of possible cooperation.
Vice chancellors of Zimbabwean universities were also present at the award presentation ceremony held at State House.
The founder of Vernadsky Crimean Federal University reportedly had a vision similar to that of the First Lady for everyone to access education.
The award comes barely six months after the First Lady was honoured with a Doctorate by GD Goenka University of India in honour of her philanthropic work.
The First Lady, through her Angel of Hope Foundation has been assisting children from deprived backgrounds with school fees, stationery and other consumables.
She rounded up children who were living and working on the streets of major cities and towns and committed them to Chambuta children’s home in Chiredzi where she enrolled them in schools.
Dr Mnangagwa also runs a successful school feeding programme to ensure no child misses school due to food challenges and learners concentrate in class when well fed.
Through an arrangement with Zimbabwe Open University, the First Lady is assisting thousands of Zimbabweans to acquire life-changing short courses thus training in various fields throughout the country as part of her empowerment initiatives.
In her acceptance speech, Amai Mnangagwa said she felt honoured to receive the award, which is the university’s highest honour for an individual.
“I welcome you all and as a mother in our culture we say welcome, mauya. We are happy for your visit to our country Zimbabwe and also your visit to the State House where you have met with me.
“I cannot express how grateful I am to have all of you here to witness this award ceremony. I am so humbled and honoured to receive such an award from the Russian education delegation,” she said.
The First Lady chronicled how, as a young girl, she was committed to improving the lives of others, especially the elderly.
“My experience started when I was young and still going to school, at primary level, when I used to wash clothes for the elderly including my grandmothers and that’s when people would ask ‘where does it come from at her age going to look after the elderly and also doing all the chores at their homes’.
“Philanthropy has always been in me. When I grew up and finished my education, I would also help the vulnerable. Even when I was serving as Member of Parliament in one of the constituencies in our country, I continued with my philanthropic work working with people in their different capabilities. I worked with all the groups especially those with an impoverished state, those with disabilities, the orphans, the widows, the elderly, teenagers and many others.
“I wish to acknowledge the people that I am working with in this constituency, the recipients that my foundation is looking after and those who are enabling me to traverse the length and breadth of Zimbabwe in the quest of reaching out.
“These are Angel of Hope Foundation partners who have stood with me since the inception of my foundation in February 2018. Now you have come on board and because you know what my foundation is doing hence your gifts have come at the right time and for the right ages of the children whom I mostly interact with. You have made my dreams come true,” she said.
The mother of the nation also gave a brief about her recent visit to Russia.
“When I came to St Petersburg in Russia at the invitation of madam Matvienko, the speaker of Parliament. There we met as African nations and as women we exchanged notes, ideas and got to know what other nations do and it was very exciting.
“We met as women from different nations. This I liked it so much and I was given the opportunity to talk about Zimbabwe where I expressed what was happening in our country and more especially what I do with the people in Zimbabwe through my foundation.
“This recognition is not for me alone, but for the people of Zimbabwe. I think when they see this today, they will be happy that what we are doing together in our country is being seen by other countries abroad and I take this not lightly, but I respect what you have done for me and to the people of Zimbabwe,” she said.
Vice chancellor of the university Mr Andrei Falaleev said they decided to award the First Lady with the biggest award in appreciation of her efforts to enhance all citizens’ access to education.
“Through her Angel of Hope Foundation, the First Lady makes a great mission to increase access to knowledge to all people. That is why it’s very similar to the ideas of Vernadsky to give success to all people.”
He expressed hope that the award would be a great motivation to all people in the world to appreciate the work being done by the First Lady.
Russian Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Nikolai Krasilnikov said high on the agenda of the visit yesterday was the ceremony of awarding the First Lady with a Gold Medal in memory of Vladimir Vernadsky, a prominent Russian academician and scientist.
“The tireless and fruitful activity of the First Lady of the Republic of Zimbabwe with Angel of Hope Foundation in the forefront contributes to the ongoing development of Russia-Zimbabwe cooperation and has an internationally acclaimed global impact.
“So, this Medal by the Crimean Federal University is a recognition by the Russian society of an outstanding contribution by H.E. Amai Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa to humanitarian cooperation through charity, educational and cultural exchanges and public diplomacy,” he said.
The ambassador said the Russian Federation was grateful to the First Lady, the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development Professor Amon Murwira and all Zimbabwean partners for a constructive engagement in preparing the visit to make it successful for the mutual benefit of the brotherly nations.
Prof Murwira said Zimbabwe and Russia were working together in the education sector.
“We have a visit from the education and science sector of the Russian Federation. As you know the Russian federation and Zimbabwe have signed a cooperation agreement in technology, in science and in higher education.
“So this cooperation is supposed to then make our university and our technological institutions and the Zimbabwe Space Agency work with Roscosmos, which is the Russian space agency.
“We also are having universities twinning and the Africa university network working with Russia under that banner and this morning we received them and we came to the First Lady for them to basically award the First Lady with a very important medal which is given by the Russian education sector to people that have made huge differences in people’s lives and the First Lady is one of them who has contributed through Her Angel of Hope Foundation touching people’s lives in Zimbabwe.
“So it was found appropriate by the education and science sector of the Russian Federation to award her with this medal and we are very pleased as the high and tertiary education sector that our First Lady has been recognised as a person who has touched people’s lives and this is very important for us.
“It’s a very important message to people who are out there that they know that it is only when you touch people’s lives that you make a difference,” he said.