Tertiary institutions in Harare yesterday invited First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa to roll out her Gota/Nhanga/Ixhiba programme to them for the benefit of learners, in a massive endorsement by the education sector of her all-inclusive teachings. It is the mother of the nation’s openness and ability to handle sensitive issues that has increased demand for her teachings.
The First Lady warned college and university students against peddling their bodies or dating elderly people in exchange for freebies, but instead come up with project ideas for self-sustenance. Her counsel comes amid reports that some female students at tertiary institutions countrywide were falling for elderly men whom they refer to as “blessers” just to receive goodies like food and expensive clothes.
The First Lady was joined by other elderly women in the Nhanga to teach girls on what was expected of them, while the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science, Innovation and Technology Development Professor Amon Murwira and some elderly men were in the Gota with the boys.
The loaded programme also included a traditional food cooking competition where mouth-watering traditional dishes with high medicinal and nutritional properties were prepared as part of equipping the learners with knowledge of the country’s indigenous dishes.
There was also a fashion show session where the institutions showcased traditional outfits, traditional utensils and tools used in the past in farming and hunting.
Speaking to the girls, the mother of the nation said the country yearned to mould respectful women from them, hence the need for them to listen to the teachings they were given.
“Today we want to mould a girl we want; a woman of the future who is well-mannered. Vana mbuya, these ages have started dating in preparation for marriage, therefore, let us teach them the disadvantages of having multiple sexual partners and the effects of having unprotected sexual intercourse,” she said.
“My daughter, the moment you sleep around you will be labelled a woman of loose morals. As you do this, are you getting HIV tests or you are being fooled into having unprotected sex. When you started dating, did you do background checks on your boyfriend?
“How much does he love you or he is after bedding you and leave you like what other boys do? Sex comes with a lot of tribulations, including diseases and pregnancies. Are you looking after yourself, my daughters?” she queried.
Gogo Regina Manyarara expressed gratitude to the First Lady for committing time to educate children so that they grew up morally upright.
“Amai, we wish to thank you for your love and taking time to teach children so that they grow up in the right path and be good mothers in the future,” she said.
“You girls, you should know what is wanted in the home and you should cultivate a relationship with your mothers so that you learn from them.
“Our mother did well to arrange that we talk to you because at your ages you are about to enter marriage and Amai is preparing you for tomorrow. As a daughter, you must be able to perform household chores and not leave everything to the maid. When you start your own home who will cook for your husband and do your laundry?”
Gogo Stella Gwatidzo said: “Pursue your education because this pleases us parents. We say no to children who are being ruined by drugs. The moment you start doing drugs, education is affected because the two do not go hand-in-glove. Treasure the teachings you are getting here.”
The First Lady weighed in, discouraging the children from associating with the so-called “blessers.”
“We are hearing issues concerning blessers,” she said.
“Tell us what this is all about and what these ‘blessers’ give you. It’s unusual for a varsity girl to date a boy of her age at the same institution, but you seek elderly men from outside. Some date both their age mates and blessers. Why is that so vanangu?”
In response, Caroline Sapabwe from Morgan Zintec College, admitted that the issue of “blessers” was real and ascribed this to peer pressure.
“Yes, Amai it’s happening,” she said.
“The issue of blessers is there. It’s mostly a result of peer pressure. You will be from a humble family and at university you meet children from well-heeled families. In trying to match them you then find blessers to buy you nice clothes and latest phones because your parents will not be affording these.”
The First Lady warned the girls against peddling their flesh, but instead form groups and start income-generating projects.
“University and college girls, I want you to form groups and start your projects like even tuckshops at school then you present these ideas to the Women’s Bank or Youths Bank,” she said.
“If you start making money for yourself to buy school stuff or clothes, why would you need a blesser?”
Runyararo Savanhu from the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) said it was essential to beat peer pressure.
“To avoid peer pressure, identify people of your class,” she said. “People must be content with themselves and their background. The moment you seek to join the group of children from well-to-do families, this is when you start looking for people who can buy you many things.”
Natasha Madzimure from the Harare Institute of Technology (HIT) said some people got themselves into trouble because of laziness.
“We are lazy and want so many things at once and we look for the easiest way out and pretend to be who we are not. We thank you Amai for giving us project ideas, but there are some who are naughty and lazy who do not want to work.
“I urge my colleagues to listen to advice and leave ‘blessers’ who will expose us to diseases and death before we graduate,” she said to applause.
In response, the First Lady said it was folly to want to do things that were not within one’s means.
“If you want to copy those who are not within your class, you lose out because you don’t know how the person you want to copy made it,” she said.
“Some exert pressure on you via social media when they post messages while resplendent in borrowed costumes and you seek to follow them. Just focus on what you came here for, you came to school to learn.”
One student partly blamed parents for not having time with their children, saying this sometimes drove children into seeking blessers.
Chido Tom from UZ added: “The problem is that we are not content with what we are and where we come from. I am from Mbare and whenever I mentioned this, fellow students would laugh at me, yet I am proud of my background.
“Every weekend I accompany my mother to the market to sell so that we get money to buy things I want and not look for blessers,” she said with pride.
Gogo Mirriam Mandava said it was essential for children to look after themselves properly and respecting their bodies.
“My daughters look after yourselves and fear God,” she said. “Open your eyes and see whether or not the guy who is wooing you is being truthful. Don’t be called names because of bed hopping. Don’t be used by men.
“Also my children, where did you get this issue of using skin lightening creams while damaging yourselves. Be proud of who you are?”
The First Lady implored the students to be disciplined and focused for a brighter future.
Sekuru Christopher Dyoko, who was with the boys in the Gota, said he was saddened by issues of drug abuse among youths.
“We are thankful to the First Lady for bringing us this programme,” he said.
“She has helped us as parents because we are troubled by these children who are taking mutoriro (crystal meth). There is so much prostitution in the communities. In the olden days we never used to see this. May the First Lady not look backwards. We will carry forward this programme.”
Evans Kagurabadza from Msasa Industrial Training College sang praises for the First Lady for bringing the programme to them.
“We thank Amai for bringing this programme because some did not even know how a goat is slaughtered,” he said. “Some did not know our cultural norms and values, but today we have been taught even how marriages are conducted. I believe a lot of boys will find this programme beneficial.”
Kagurabadza said he had also learnt the need to always be respectful and to honour parents and elders in the community. As a sign that the youths embraced the First Lady’s traditional food cooking competition, unique dishes were prepared by various learners showing some innovative ideas through which indigenous dishes could be packaged.
Students from Belvedere Technical Teachers College prepared bream coated with flour and crumbed with roasted sorghum, maguru stuffed with pumpkins and nyevhe and madhumbe topped with matemba and pumpkins which they branded yum boat.
Hosts, Harare Polytechnic, weighed in with baobab cocktail and stuffed zondo, while Morgan Zintec presented hacha pudding among other dishes.
Harare Institute of Technology food processing technology students showcased magogoya pudding, manhanga cornflakes, cassava instant porridge, pumpkin and apple jam and cassava macaroni which they are producing.
Addressing the male and female students, the First Lady said she was pleased that tertiary institutions had embraced the importance of the country’s cultural values as displayed by the traditional foods which were on display.
“Our indigenous foods are rich in nutritious value and most of them have medicinal properties which are good for our health. I encourage tertiary institutions to undertake further research on the medicinal properties of our indigenous vegetables, fruits and herbs.
“We also had a fashion show showcasing our traditional clothing designed by our young Zimbabweans. This shows our pride and acceptance of who we are as a people.
“We are Zimbabweans and we should be proud of our cultural heritage. It is important for us to know where we are coming from because it will help us reach our destination,” she said to applause.
She said due to technological advancement, the globe had been unified into a single village with positive and negative effects.
“On the negative side we have experienced the dilution of our culture and tradition with this effect hitting our youths hardest,” said the First Lady.
“Our youths have strayed away from our customs and they are now holding on to values which are not ours. As parents we are concerned and worried.”
The mother of the nation said girls were now taking alcohol and drugs while dating “blessers” who exploit them in exchange for small treats.
“Girls, this behaviour is suicidal. Let’s stop this and start using our hands,” she said.
The First Lady admonished boys for abusing drugs saying: “Some are boiling diapers and sanitary wear in order to satisfy their addictions. This is self-destructing and as parents we have work to do. Young ladies and gentlemen, tertiary education is very important, but there is another set of lectures which you are missing in the curriculum of your livelihoods; that of Nhanga/Gota/Ixhiba.
“It is imperative to get a qualification in order to better one’s life, but let us remember, manners maketh man, meaning good behaviour can take you far in life. I look forward to being invited to Nhanga/Gota/Ixhiba programmes at various institutions of higher learning in the country.”
Minister Murwira said the First Lady’s Gota/Nhanga/Ixhiba programme dovetailed with the heritage-based Education 5.0 which the Government was implementing.
“Heritage means the fauna, the flora, the minerals and the human skills and culture you have,” he said. “Your Excellency, the world over nations are identified through their culture which includes the technology and aspirations that embody that culture.
“Culture is a way of doing things and relating that is supported by norms and technologies which gives us an identity of who we are as a people and as a nation.
“Culture also influences the way we interact with the rest of the world. It therefore means that culture, heritage and technology cannot be separated.”