As the nation yesterday joined the rest of the continent in commemorating the Day of the African Child (DAC), First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa implored Zimbabweans to preserve the lives of children, especially in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic which has left millions of people dead worldwide.
Amai Mnangagwa bemoaned the devastating effects of the pandemic which led to the closure of schools and shaken the world economy.
Every year, the African Union and its member states observe the Day of the African Child as a commemoration of the June 16, 1976 student uprising in Soweto, South Africa, where pupils who marched in protest against apartheid-inspired education,were brutally murdered.
This year's theme was "30 years after the adoption of the Charter: accelerate the implementation of Agenda 2040 for an Africa fit for children".
"Sadly, this year we are marking this day against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic which has pulled us back greatly as schools have had to be closed as part of measures to stem the spread of the killer pandemic.
"So devastating have been the effects of Covid-19 across the globe where it has shaken the world economy and left millions of people dead.
"Zimbabwe has not been spared as it has lost thousands of people since the pandemic was detected in the country last year," said Amai Mnangagwa.
"So far, there are fears of a third wave of the pandemic and we urge all people to adhere to World Health Organisation (WHO) protocols of masking up, sanitising and observing social distance. Nothing hurts a mother more than the death of a child and every life lost is one too many. I encourage you all to fight hard to preserve life and stay safe."
Through her Angel of Hope Foundation, the First Lady has been actively involved in programmes to ensure every child has access to food, shelter, good health and education.
"We have done spirited campaigns to enhance access to education by paying tuition fees for children in disadvantaged communities and providing them with uniforms and other learning materials.
"There are a lot of children who are out of school for a lot of reasons, including poverty and hunger. Therefore, I have also introduced feeding programmes for children in both rural and urban areas with a view to ensuring that no child pulls out of school due to hunger," said the First Lady.
She encouraged everyone with means to step up to the challenge and help in whatever way possible to ensure children went to school for them to realise their dreams.
Education was the key to development and educating children would lift them out of poverty, making it imperative for every child should to access education.
"I have personally taken children off the streets and placed them at institutions like Chambuta in Chiredzi where they are pursuing their education and doing sport.
"Others have since taken up vocational training courses to ensure they grow into responsible citizens who earn clean money through the use of their hands and talents.
"As we mark this Day of the African Child, it is my plea that as Zimbabweans we should put our hands together to build the African child we want," said the First Lady.
"Child marriages are rearing an ugly head in the communities and as a mother, I humbly urge the nation to let children be.
"Let us give them a chance to shine and flourish in an environment of peace, love and unity. Also, if we keep these children in school the dilemma of child marriages could be solved."
The First Lady said the commemorations also came at a time when children had lost morals and were engaging in prostitution and drug abuse among many ills that the nation was fighting to correct through an all-inclusive Nhanga/Gota/Ixiba programme to ensure they mended their ways.
"I have also rolled out the Nharirire yeMusha programme for parents and guardians to develop respectable qualities that build a prosperous nation and Africa that is the envy of the world. There is a lot more that we can achieve by working together and pulling in one direction. As we celebrate this day, let us make serious introspection and commitment towards addressing the numerous challenges children face in Africa.
"For Africa's development, no child should be left behind," said Amai Mnangagwa.