First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa, through her Angel of Hope Foundation, yesterday launched #NganonaAmai initiative, where she will be inviting schoolchildren for storytelling in a move aimed at transmitting and preserving cultural values.

She said teaching children folk stories offers many benefits that help reinforce their basic listening, grammar and vocabulary skills.

The “Mbuya neVazukuru” engagement took place at Zimbabwe House, where children drawn from various schools in and around Harare came together to learn the country’s cultural heritage.

The First Lady, who visited a cholera treatment camp at Beatrice Road Infectious Diseases Hospital in Harare on Wednesday, took the opportunity to educate the children on cholera.

“I am happy that you are willing to learn magariro aiita matateguru edu,” she said.

“From today going forward, we will be meeting here tichidzidzisana chinyakare chedu. Vana vanodawo nguva yakadai. Zvaita zvitsva kwavari kuti vauya kuzoona gogo vachiswera navo, vachitaura ngano.

“The motive behind this is to encourage them (children) to have a culture of wanting to read their books, especially Shona books nekuti vana vazhinji varikufoira shona. Mukuvavhunza mivhunzo ndaona kuti vana ava vanotoziva tsumo nemadimikira nezvimwe.

“Saka vanoda kukurudzirwa through such kind of programmes kuti vagone kuterera, kuverenga uye nekutaura.”

She said the initiative is expected to spread to other provinces and districts countrywide.

“If resources permit, my wish is to take this programme to all the provinces around the country, moving around the schools teaching the children our cultural heritage,’’ she said.

“This is not just a one-day event, I want it to spread to every school across the country.

“I involved the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education so that they will see where we are coming from and where we are going in terms of teaching our children about cultural heritage.

“I gave the children Shona textbooks so that they will practise reading when they go back to their homes or schools. Children develop a sense of imagination when reading, hence when they are retelling the stories, it helps them practise communication skills.”

The First Lady, with the assistance of medical personnel from the Ministry of Health and Child Care led by Dr Edward Makondo, took time to educate the children and those who attended the function about cholera that has since killed 25 people.

She said people should always ensure that their homes are clean, the food they eat is well-cooked and their families practise good hygienic standards to curb water and food-borne diseases.

She also encouraged people to wash their fruits and vegetables thoroughly with running water.

In an interview, the First Lady said she took precautionary measures ahead of hosting the children.

“As you know, for now public gatherings have been banned as part of efforts to contain the cholera outbreak, so what I did ndagadzirira vana pavaungana pano,” she said.

“With the help from Ministry of Health and Child Care officials, vana tavagezesa maoko nemishonga inokwanisa kudzivirira kutapurirana kwechirwere ichi. We have doctors, nurses and an ambulance on standby.”

“Let us keep our country clean to curb water and food-borne diseases. I am pleading with parents to monitor their children closely and discourage them from swimming in rivers since some of them might be contaminated.”

It was indeed a constructive engagement, with Tinotenda Kalulu, a Grade 7 pupil who resides at Tamuka Orphanage praising the First Lady for the initiative.

“We hardly come across people willing to sit down with us the younger generation to teach us about our culture. We thank the First Lady for granting us this rare opportunity to learn about our cultural heritage. Indeed we learnt a lot,” he said.

Juliana Makunise, a pupil at Dominican Convent said: “The initiative showed us the love Amai has for children and Zimbabweans at large.

“The First Lady really loves children. It is not everyone that accepts large numbers of children in their homes like she did,” she said.

Storyteller and writer Mr Ignatius Mabasa, who also narrated stories to the children, welcomed the First Lady’s initiative saying folktales unite people.

“When I heard about Amai’s programme, I quickly jumped in because I also know the importance of ngano and would like to thank the First Lady for coming up with the idea to engage the young generation,” he said.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education Dr Sylvia Utete-Masango also thanked Amai Mnangagwa for the initiative.

It was indeed an occasion filled with so much joy and laughter as vazukuru went away with, among other things, food hampers and satchels full of school material from their gogo (The First Lady).

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