Joseph Madzimure in Hwedza
First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa yesterday launched a non-partisan feeding scheme for vulnerable schoolchildren at Chemanza High School, Mashonaland East Province.
The programme will cascade to all the country’s eight rural provinces.
The nationwide school feeding programme has been rolled out by Amai Mnangagwa through her Angel of Hope Foundation and is expected to reduce the number of children dropping out of school owing to hunger and malnutrition.
The initiative by the First Lady builds on the national and regional thrust to promote nutrition of schoolchildren, as well as fight hunger within the education sector.
Droughts experienced over the last two farming seasons have exposed many families to food insecurity, amid indications that a sizeable number of children are facing malnutrition and stunting challenges.
The worst affected are schoolchildren in rural areas who endure long distances to attend classes, some of them on empty stomachs, which has contributed to a high dropout rate.
However, this narrative is being addressed through school feeding programmes introduced by the First Lady that are targeted at addressing poor school performance due to malnutrition and hunger.
Pupils will be served healthy porridge, traditional food such as sadza, dried vegetables with peanut butter, beef and beans.
The initiative is one of the response strategies to cushion communities and the feeding scheme is complementing Government efforts to enhance retention and performance of pupils.
This comes against evidence showing that a sizeable number of schoolchildren, mainly ECD and Grades One to Five in rural areas, are missing out on school and their performance is being compromised.
Speaking at the launch yesterday, Amai Mnangagwa said as the patron of Angel of Hope Foundation, she was complementing Government efforts by scaling the social protection systems to safeguard school children malnutrition through feeding programmes.
“All I am doing is for the national good and we are going to feed all children across the political divide,” she said.
“As a mother, I have come in to play my part through the feeding programme. As a mother, I want everyone to benefit. We are working with a number of partners to ensure we help all children in the country.”
The First Lady’s thrust is to enhance children’s access to food and nutrition across all corners of the country.
The future of children, she said, was anchored on the early foundation they got from their parents from a tender age up to adulthood.
This intervention comes at a time when many underprivileged families marry off daughters of school going age after failing to cater for their education, exposing them to serious health challenges and abuse.
The mother of the nation and the country’s Health Ambassador, called for the need to eradicate hunger among school going children across the country.
More than 1 000 children in the Hwedza community yesterday benefited from the scheme initiated by the First Lady’s Angel of Hope Foundation to complement Government efforts to support vulnerable children in schools
Amai Mnangagwa stressed the need to promote and prepare traditional dishes for children.
“We need to promote traditional dishes which are healthier than junk foods,” she said.
“Parents should work towards the promotion of traditional dishes such as dovi, dried vegetables and madora, among others to feed their children.
“As a mother, I am aware that our children are reluctant to take traditional foods, but we have to enforce it at family level.”
Owing to the bad farming season experienced last year, worsened by the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, many families in rural communities are finding it difficult to sustain their livelihoods with children and women at the receiving end of these challenges.
As health ambassador, the First Lady is strongly advocating good health among vulnerable expecting mothers, enhancing their nutritional status, while also promoting them towards income generating programmes.
More than 60 expecting mothers were handed blankets and maize seed, with a special focus to improve food security at household level, while also securing steady incomes for their families.
There was jubilation and ululating as the expecting mothers received maize seed and blankets from the First Lady.
She also prepared and dished out the food to the vulnerable children at Chemanza dining hall. It was all smiles as the children enjoyed their food.
After donating the maize seed, Amai Mnangagwa called on women to promote small grains and intensify farming activities to ensure food security at household level.
Buoyed by her agricultural acumen, the First Lady said women can do it.
“Women should shun dependency syndrome, but they should work hard to enhance agricultural production,” said the First Lady.
“Women should embrace agriculture as the backbone of the country’s economy.
“Let me emphasise that we should promote small grains and take farming seriously to ensure food security at household level is achieved. We should not depend on donations alone, but we should put more focus on producing enough for ourselves.
“The Meteorological Services Department has predicted normal-to-above normal rainfall in the country, this farming season. Let’s put the rains to good use for our benefit,” she said.
The First Lady challenged expecting mothers to venture into income generating projects, such as soap making, baking, sewing, production of peanut butter and market gardening.
Her initiative will be replicated across eight provinces to benefit over 15 000 vulnerable people.
The Zimbabwe Women’s Microfinance Bank (ZWMB) chief executive Dr Mandas Marikanda said they were ready to assist expecting mothers to venture into business to sustain themselves and promote feeding schemes.
Mashonaland East Minister of Provincial Affairs and Devolution Aplonia Munzverengwi commented the First Lady for working towards the promotion of feeding schemes in schools.
“We really appreciate the work done by the First Lady Amai Mnangagwa, for taking care of the vulnerable families,” she said.
Deputy director Primary and Learner Welfare Services for Mashonaland East, Mrs Rebecca Gora, applauded the First Lady for her gesture, saying it would go a long way in supporting schoolchildren.
“We want to thank the First Lady for coming to support programmes to boost the performance of children in schools,” said Mrs Gora.
One of the beneficiaries, Mrs Taruona Moyo commended the First Lady for the gesture.
“The 2020/21 season is upon us,” she said. “I really appreciate the donation by the First Lady.”
These efforts complement strides recorded at national level in the school feeding programme which is being implemented through the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.
Also present at the function were Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade David Musabayana, Deputy Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation, Tino Machakaire and senior Government officials.