First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa watches girls as they prepare traditional dishes over a fire during nhanga/gota/ixhiba in Tsholotsho. (Picture By John Manzongo)
Young girls here have openly admitted to engaging in sexual relations at the expense of their education, spelling the need for elders to take immediate remedial action to curb unwanted pregnancies, diseases and ensure children grow up morally upright.
The disclosure came during First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa’s Gota/Nhanga/Ixhiba programme which seeks to ensure children grow up morally upright.
The community invited the First Lady to bring her educative programme and help correct the wayward behaviour of the children.
“It’s true that these days we do not value our education and are running after men owing to a quest for niceties,” said one girl during the session. “However, we have learnt that this exposes us to problems because if you visit most pregnant mothers waiting shelters you find a lot of young girls of my age there. Most of these girls are also on anti-retroviral drugs.”
The disclosure put into perspective the importance of the nationwide counselling sessions being spearheaded by the First Lady and dovetailed with concerns raised by most elders over the behaviour of children.
The session was held in strict observance of World Health Organisation regulations of masking up, washing hands and maintaining social distance to curb the spread of Covid-19.
In her remarks, the mother of the nation said it was everyone’s duty to ensure children grew up morally upright and respectful.
“Grandmothers, I have come so that we join forces in counselling the girl child,” said the First Lady. “A girl must not have sexual relations before the time is ripe and must treasure her education.
“Rushing into sexual relationships brings challenges like pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Both boys and girls have become stubborn and are taking intoxicating substances. As parents we want them to treasure their education and shape their future.”
Gogo Sylvia Ndlovu admitted as much and said the children had lost respect for elders.
“True, they are now stubborn and behave as though they were our mothers,” she said. “They succumb to peer pressure and the end is teen pregnancies and the responsible boy denies paternity, leaving parents to shoulder the burden of looking after the child.
“These children leave their huts while we are asleep and meet boys such that we are astounded to find them pregnant.”
The behaviour of today’s children is a lot different from what obtained in the past as highlighted by Gogo Thlava Ndlovu.
“During our days we bathed with boys in the river and it was normal,” she said. “Nothing happened because we were taught manners, but this is no longer the case.”
Many elders spoke out against the mischief in today’s children with another elderly woman leaving everything in the hands of God.
“These children no longer value their education and are rushing into marriage,” she said. “They wake up early saying they are leaving for school only to return at 7pm. They do not reach school, yet they leave home wearing their uniforms.
“If you look in the bag you will see clothes. If you beat her she threatens to get you arrested. When she falls pregnant she points at many boys she would have slept with and they all deny responsibility.
“As an elderly woman, I would be struggling to make ends meet and am left with many grandchildren to look after. What do I give them? We are talking reality Amai, it’s happening here. May God help us.”
Gogo Lida Ndlovu said since growing up, she had never come across the kind of behaviour exhibited by most children of today.
“Even when it comes to household chores, they do not perform,” she said. “If they go to fetch water, they take long to return. Once they develop breasts they think they would have come of age. When they start their menstrual cycles they do not disclose this, yet it’s important to inform elders like an aunt or grandmother so that they are taught how to handle it.
“When we started our menses back then, we would be made to touch all utensils in the kitchen so that you do not break them in the future, that is our culture and these children no longer want to follow anything to do with one’s culture.
“We were also told that once you slept with a man you would fall pregnant and this deterred us from sleeping with men.”
During the session, the First Lady asked the young girls if they had boyfriends and some of them admitted.
Among the girls was an 18-year-old who said she started dating at 15 and also started engaging in sexual activities.
She said she was using family planning pills.
The girl already has a baby whom she said was being looked after by her grandmother.
In response, the First Lady said she did not encourage girls to date at a tender age.
“We do not encourage you to have boyfriends at a tender age and that’s why I am here with your grandmothers and mothers, educating you on the importance of education,” she said “And now that you said you are on pills, it means he is sleeping with you at will and if you fall pregnant again he might run away. When you had your first child he denied paternity. Your lover shows he is not straightforward.
“Ndosaka tirikuti vanangu tangai maita zvemabook wopedza chikoro chako wozofunga zvevarume (that is why we are saying you our daughters should first focus on your education before you think of engaging in relationships with men).”
During the discussions, a 14-year-old girl said she was dating a boy who was a year older and both were still in school.
She said they started dating during the lockdown after the boy helped her with money to buy sanitary pads.
In response, the First Lady said: “My daughter you are too young for this. I want you to reject him today because I will give you the pads that you want. I am going to provide you girls with already sewn reusable pads.
“On top of that, I will give you sewing machines, material and others accessories to sew reusable pads and I will send an Angel of Hope Foundation team to teach you how to make them,” she said to applause.
The girls were taught more on menstrual hygiene.
Another girl, a 17-year-old, said she had a 26-year-old boyfriend and a two-year-old baby.
The said boyfriend left for greener pastures in South Africa and never came back.
“Your boyfriends are fooling you vanangu,” said the First Lady. “As a mother I am deeply hurt. In South Africa he is probably staying with another woman that is why he has forgotten about you and the baby. Let us now leave the past behind and look forward.”
The First Lady urged the girls to form groups and come up with project ideas they want to engage in.
She said through her Angel of Hope Foundation, she would engage its partners and source for projects as a way of economically empowering them.
“Be good children who respect their parents, grannies and the elders in your communities. It is our wish as elders to have disciplined children,” said Amai Mnangagwa.
An elderly woman thanked the First Lady for her assistance and urged the girls to treasure what they had been taught.
“We are thankful for the words brought by our mother and hope the children will keep these in their hearts for a brighter future,” she said.
While girls were in the nhanga, boys too were having their life lessons in the gota with the elderly men from the community and the Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Richard Moyo.
For their practical lessons, boys were taught to plough using donkeys, carpentry and imparted with life skills by elders.
Girls showed the First Lady how in their culture they decorate their homes with the chevron and V-shaped pattern, explaining that the black and white pattern represented a woman.
They said a woman bears children and unites the family.
They prepared Tshimoni, a mixture of roundnuts and groundnuts. In this area, they do not make peanut butter by grinding groundnuts on stone, but they pound.
The girls also cooked umxhanxa.
After separate gota and nhanga sessions, the boys and girls later combined for an address by the mother of the nation.
She tasked the community Agritex officer to come up with farming projects that were viable that youths, both boys and girls, could engage in so that through her foundation and its partners, she would see how best to assist them.
The First Lady made the children ambassadors of her programme, before giving the food hampers and toiletries.
Also, the elderly who taught them were given food hampers and toiletries.