The Sunday News
Thandeka Moyo-Ndlovu, Senior Reporter
HUNDREDS of Matabeleland North province residents thronged the Hwange Stadium on Friday to witness the graduation of beneficiaries of the ongoing partnership between First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa’s Angel of Hope Foundation and the Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU).
The number of beneficiaries is expected to grow rapidly as the intakes increase following the success of the first one. The programme, which targets to leave no one and no place behind, included widows, orphans, former ladies of the night, youths, the elderly and people with disabilities as its beneficiaries.
The short courses are conducted free of charge, giving those who failed to complete their education due to various circumstances a lifeline. The partnership between Angel of Hope Foundation and ZOU is designed to empower communities, especially marginalised women and girls, with various skills such as farming, taking care of the elderly and managing businesses.
In a speech read on her behalf by Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Richard Moyo, Dr Mnangagwa said educating women and girls is critical for the country to attain Vision 2030.
“Colonial government discriminatory practices, the non-existence of educational institutions in the hard-to-reach communities, gender segregation, gender-based violence, cultural and religious retrogressive doctrines are some of the vices that led to educational limitations that negatively relegated most women whose roots are in this province. However, denying women and girls knowledge and skills is considered retrogressive in Zimbabwe. Females form 52 percent of the naturally endowed human capital resource that would significantly contribute to the attainment of NDS 1 (National Development Strategy 1) goals.”
Dr Mnangagwa said on February 8 last year, elderly women, middle-aged women, youthful mothers and school dropouts, among others, formed a representative group of Matabeleland North during the provincial launch of Angel of Hope Foundation/ZOU partnership.
The group was drawn mainly from the rural districts of Binga, Lupane, Nkayi, Tsholotsho, Umguza, Bubi and Hwange. The mother of the nation said she was proud of the pioneering beneficiaries of the short courses training.
She, however, noted with concern that the province had not yet benefitted from Basic Counselling, Disability Management and Sign Language, Health Behaviour, Records Management and Basic Nurse Aid Palliative Care for the Elderly due to the unavailability of facilitators.
“The vice chancellor informed me that Lupane State University is willing to complement ZOU in the training of short courses for these missing subjects. I, therefore, anticipate that during the second certification ceremony of Matabeleland North province, Angel of Hope Foundation beneficiaries would have benefitted from all the 10 life-changing short courses on offer,” said the First Lady.
She expressed satisfaction with the programme, saying it has changed lives for the better.
“A befitting celebratory atmosphere emanating from a seemingly educational achievement of a lifetime is heart-warming and most gratifying to me,” she said.
ZOU vice chancellor Professor Paul Gundani commended Dr Mnangagwa’s efforts to change livelihoods, saying the impact was also being felt beyond the country’s borders.
“The First Lady has touched lives by visiting and showing concern for the marginalised regardless of their location, status or situation. You are always leading the way and bringing in the open the marginalisation of communities and vulnerability of Zimbabwean citizens among us. You have gone out of your way by bringing developmental redress to all whom you come across. Your works are not only uplifting the living conditions of the marginalised in Zimbabwe but put the country on the world map and they are worth emulating by other countries.”
The Angel of Hope Foundation women empowerment initiative, Prof Gundani said, speaks to the African Union Agenda 2063, whose thrust is meant to make a difference to all Africans. One of the beneficiaries, Mr Thulani Mukwevho (52), said he is a driving instructor from Victoria Falls, who was passionate about early childhood development.
He was the only male who participated in the ECD (early childhood development) course. He said the knowledge gained will help him advocate for child-friendly learning centres.
“We have always known women to be the only ones keen on the education of children. I believe every man should have basic ECD skills and be in a position to mentor children as we have an important role in raising them,” said Mr Mukwevho.
Mrs Sinikiwe Vera (54) said she was grateful for the chance provided to her by the First Lady.
“I stay about 10 kilometres away from the ZOU campus and decided that I would rather walk than miss out on this opportunity offered by our mother. I used to walk 20 kilometres daily to and from campus and I am happy that today I have three certificates. I am a better person and I know the skills gained will help me be more useful to my community here in Hwange,” she said.