Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa yesterday urged Zimbabweans to desist from the culture of child marriages and empower the girl child with education with a particular bias towards science subjects.
She said the future of children was anchored on the early foundation they get from their parents from a tender age up to adulthood.
Amai Mnangagwa, who is also the Health Ambassador said it was important to avail equitable opportunities for children across all genders.
She said it was critical to encourage children to stay off drugs and substance abuse.
The First Lady made the remarks while officiating at a function at Mapili Primary School in Beitbridge where she donated an assortment of food items to support the Government’s school feeding programme.
She donated a combined 122 bags of powdered porridge and 108 bags of Amahewu (Maheu) to Mapili and Mudzviti primary schools respectively and said the programme was being rolled out to all primary schools countrywide.
During the event, the First Lady had the opportunity to prepare powdered porridge and Amahewu for pupils at Mapili Primary School.
“The culture of child marriages is worrisome, I want to encourage parents to focus on educating the girl child as a way of empowering her for the future,” she said.
“At the same time, we have noted that there is a lot of drug abuse among our children. This is bad for our society, let’s work together and end this vice.
“You will also note that the Government is rolling out the school feeding programme as a way of adapting to the effects of climate change and enhancing the enrolment of pupils through the creation of child-friendly schools.
“May I encourage all communities to spearhead the school feeding programme so that the potential of our children may be realised.”
The First Lady said the right to education was for all Zimbabweans regardless of gender, geographical location and ethnicity.
She said the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education’s mandate was to provide equitable access to quality education for all citizens.
“It is my desire that every child in Zimbabwe goes to school,” said the First Lady. “Food acts as fuel for our bodily functions and is good for brain development.
“As Amai, I have come up with the porridge and Amahewu which shall be fed to the pupils in order to combat hunger. Hungry children tend to lack concentration in their studies.”
Amai Mnangagwa said in rolling out the school feeding scheme, it was important for people to practice hygiene, maintain clean serving areas and to have good safe water sources.
She said Government was working on a programme to drill more boreholes at schools countrywide in response to obtaining water shortages.
Amai Mnangagwa said child-friendly learning institutions were an important ingredient to address wanton drops-outs.
“Besides the water shortages in most rural schools, I have engaged a number of partners who are willing to build clinics across the country to promote access to primary health care by Zimbabweans,” she said.
“We need to keep looking at ways of empowering communities at all levels in attending to all social and related challenges.”
Matabeleland South Provincial Education Director Mr Lifias Masukume said the province had 513 primary schools and 166 secondary schools and that the school feeding scheme had resulted in increased enrolment in Early Childhood Development classes and an improved pass rate in other grades.
“This is a programme that is helping us address some of the barriers to education and we commend the First Lady for her relentless efforts to improve the state of affairs in schools,” said Mr Masukume.
Beitbridge West legislator Cde Ruth Maboyi said the area was facing a number of challenges, including poor roads, fewer clinics and schools and a devastating drought for both people and livestock.
The same initiative was rolled out in Matabeleland North yesterday, where the First Lady was represented by Primary and Secondary Education permanent secretary Mrs Tumisang Tabela.
Mrs Tabela handed over textbooks and pads and food consignments to selected schools in Lupane at the event held at Nono Primary School.