The Sunday News
Tendai Rupapa in Chimanimani
MEMBERS of the community here yesterday leapt with joy when First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa rolled out her Gota/Nhanga/Ixhiba programme at a time when they were grappling with challenges of disrespect, poor dressing, school drop-outs and drug abuse among youths.
It came out during the first of its kind highly interactive session with the First Lady in Chimanimani West that children had lost focus owing to Western influences they copied from television, phones and social media.
Most of the children — elders and local leaders confirmed — were stubborn, lacked respect for elders and engaged in sexual activities due to peer pressure. In separate interviews on the sidelines of yesterday’s programme held at Poret culture centre, elders and traditional leaders roundly agreed that the First Lady had struck the right chord.
Gogo Chipo Njeza (64) decried the behaviour of today’s youths and said she was taking them through lessons at the culture centre to mould them.
“At this culture centre we teach children because we realised they were engaging in mischief. We thank the First Lady for coming up with this programme. We established that when we bring children here to train them to use their hands, their movement will be restricted. We teach them to weave baskets, sweeping brooms, mats and clay pots.
They sell these things to make a living thus reducing issues of older men preying on our young girls by luring them with money. The First Lady, through her programme, has helped us control these children and it is making us return to the way we grew up ourselves. It is a day to remember for Chimanimani, chokwadi tawanirwa nyasha,” she said.
So bad was the behaviour of some of the youths in Chimanimani that it had reduced their parents and grandparents to tears. Gogo Dorothy Chikohomero (75) described the First Lady’s programme as the right medicine to cure juvenile delinquency.
“We thank the First Lady who has brought this programme for our children who had become wayward. They are very stubborn such that if you send them on an errand, they refuse, during our days it was unheard of. At times these children abandoned their cooking duties to attend to their phones and they do not know manners when giving their fathers food. They no longer have respect for parents. We grew up well with values but what we are seeing in today’s children is something else, tanga tatambura nehunhu hwevana ava vese vakomana nevasikana. If you sent them to fetch water in the morning, they would report back late with a lot of lies,” she said.
“During our days, when a child misbehaved in front of people, our mothers would look at you in a way that showed she was not pleased. Today if you do the same, the children will ask why you are looking at them in front of people. If you advise them at water points where they mostly gather gossiping, they jeer at you and tell you off that you are not their mother. We appreciate Amai’s programme which helps us to revert to our cultural ways of old,” she said.
All hope is, however, not lost as people like Mr Julius Piti said they had developed permaculture projects to keep the children busy thereby reducing mischief.
“We work with our traditional leaders because permaculture dwells on farming the traditional way which preserves our heritage. This involves working with young people so that they know our values and norms. With the help of elders here, they tell us what culture demands. We are grateful to the First Lady for coming up with this eye-opening educative programme. We will continue complementing her efforts so that her vision of raising morally upright children is achieved,” he said with hope.
Deputy Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Hon Tino Machakaire was all smiles, saying the First Lady’s programme was paying dividends.
“This programme which the First Lady rolled out countrywide has left me speechless. As we speak, I am also learning a lot of things that I did not learn as I was growing up. We may be grown up and well-learned but without morals like we are being taught by the First Lady we will be useless. I want to thank the First Lady for uniting the country through this programme. We are being taught good behaviour through her. I urge her to carry forward her work and not end here. As a ministry, indeed we see that many youths are now taking drugs. Some are being jailed because of mischief. But if they take the First Lady’s teachings seriously, we won’t have increases in cases of misbehaviour as our youths will be well-mannered,” he said.
Also upbeat was Chief Saurombe, Mr Raymond Madzinza Saurombe from Chimanimani.
“This programme being conducted by Amai is helpful because our values were lost. In the Gota we were teaching boys what they should know from the start. If a child is not taught how can he learn?”
Other Chiefs from the province among them Chief Makumbe, Chief Muusha, Chief Mutambara and their spouses came out in full support of the First Lady’s programme. In the Nhanga, the First Lady, some elderly women from the community, Chiefs wives and female councillors spoke to the girls about personal and menstrual hygiene, how to perform household chores, respect and the proper way to dress, among other issues.
The First Lady and the elders taught the girls how to thresh millet and they together managed to thresh and winnow many bags. Boys too were taken through teachings in the Gota by elders, chiefs and community leaders who were present.
Judging by the questions the children were asking during the Nhanga and Gota sessions, they lacked knowledge on the important aspects of life. Some of the youths confirmed they had lost morals and attributed it to lack of guidance from parents and elders in the community. In her address, the mother of the nation said her programme focused on the life of Zimbabweans following widespread reports of youths who had lost morals.
“The way our sons and daughters are dressing is so embarrassing to parents who now have nowhere to hide with shame. Boys are putting on many trousers at once with some at knee level. Both boys and girls are abusing alcohol and drugs. In the olden days there was no such things. Their phones are making them tap into Western culture and this requires us to put our heads together to mould our children into future leaders. These youths of today also shun our traditional healthy foods,” she said.
The First Lady made reference to disturbing reports of girls who fell pregnant during lockdown and dropped out of school and said it was not proper for children to engage in sexual activities before the time is ripe. She said her teachings were not a passport for children to rush into marriage and that she intended to unite the nation with teachings that foster a brighter future for youths. The children confirmed that they had never had such interactions with elders or parents saying the little they knew was from school.
“As parents, aunts, grandmothers and grandfathers we must have time with children, teaching them about life. Let us not leave everything to the teachers because teachers have where they end,” the First Lady said.
She made a plea to the elders to form committees and take turns to teach children so that they grow up morally upright. Chiefs, their wives and elders who taught the children were given food hampers while the children who participated and are now ambassadors of the programme were given school materials and food hampers, courtesy of the First Lady.
Amai Mnangagwa left truckloads of foodstuffs for onward distribution to vulnerable communities in the province in the hands of Manicaland Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Nokuthula Matsikenyere who praised the First Lady for her love and benevolence.
“As a province, we want to thank heartily our mother who has brought us so much food that we will distribute to vulnerable groups. She goes about in search of food for her children through her Angel of Hope Foundation and shares equally whatever she gets among her children countrywide,” she said.