Punching the air with excitement, children from the San community in Bulilima district are enjoying every bit of their fairy-tale visit here which has for the first time in their lives afforded them an opportunity to tour one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world, the mighty Victoria Falls and fascinating rain forest.
The children accompanied by their village elders arrived in Bulawayo on Thursday before flying to Victoria Falls the following day where they are still enjoying a cocktail of activities.
On Sunday, the First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa, who organised the trip, joined the children and the village head Mrs Matjena Ncube for the crocodile and snake park tour.
On show were various snakes including yellow rat snake, corn snake, puff adder and the rufous beaked snake.
Gabon viper, python, snouted cobra and Cape cobra were also shown to the children and tour guides explained their origins and how venomous each one of them is.
The type of food the snakes eat were also highlighted, including the meaning of certain reactions by snakes.
The snake handlers armed the children with tips on how to handle snake bites before visiting the hospital.
At the crocodile farm, the shy and reserved children were afforded an opportunity to handle baby crocodiles and were taken through the process of crocodile egg hatching.
They were also shown various products made from crocodile skin.
In her brief address to the children, Amai Mnangagwa implored them to take their education seriously as this was the pathway to a better future.
The community never used to value education such that their children did not go to school prompting the First Lady to constantly visit them and encouraging the village elders to let their children attend school.
In this community, it is not surprising to see a 16-year-old doing Grade Three or a 13-year-old starting her ECD.
“I want you to go to school and work hard so that you can find jobs to sustain you in future. I am sewing uniforms for you so that you return to school smart and learn with all your might. I am also very happy to be with you here and have come to share the happiness with you.
“I have brought you to Victoria Falls so that you see how beautiful our country is. I also want you to relate with other people from outside your community as this will help shape your career guidance,” she said.
For yesterday’s activities, the First Lady took the children to watch the Majestic Victoria Falls and the rain forest.
Together with Amai Mnangagwa, the children joined a traditional dance troupe on the floor at the entrance to the Victoria Falls, which are respected as one of the seven wonders of the world and have attracted a lot of domestic, regional and international tourists.
The children were bewildered to see one place raining even when the surroundings were dry and scorching hot.
“How exciting this is. At first I thought I was daydreaming only to pinch myself and find out this is real. The Victoria Falls is a splendid place and it is our first time to set foot outside our Thwayithwayi village. We have seen a lot ever since we came here. We visited a snake and crocodile farm and we could play with baby crocodiles. We were told a lot of products that can be made from crocodile skins,” quipped Siphamandla Moyo (13) who is in Grade 2.
The young boy spoke animatedly about what he had seen.
Sefeleni Ncube (14), who is in Grade 5, said he had learnt a lot of new things that he would share with his siblings, friends and community back home.
“This trip is so interesting and educative. We saw lions being fed at close range and also visited a snake farm where we were shown many kinds of snakes. A man who was leading us told us the kind of food the snakes eat and what certain reactions by the reptiles mean.
“He also gave us information on what to do after getting bitten by snakes. At the rain forest, we were puzzled as to how only a certain place was raining while the surrounding areas were dry. We are still yet to understand that wonder,” Sefelani said while wearing a broad smile.
It is the first time that the children have left their community since birth and they are actually surprised with what they are encountering in the world outside.
“We are seeing a lot of fascinating things. I was afforded the opportunity to board an aeroplane from Bulawayo to Victoria Falls. The trip was very enjoyable and in no time we had reached our destination. I was given the opportunity to burrow into comfortable blankets at the hotel and eat good food.
“Everything about this trip is so exciting and I think I would want to repeat this over and over again. Talking of the Victoria Falls, we had never heard of them, we were surprised and thrilled with what we saw,” said Nthando Tshuma who is 15-years old and in Grade 5.
The children were full of praises for the First Lady for organising the trip and visiting some of the exciting places.
Speaking about the visit to the Falls, the First Lady spelt the need for people to plough back in communities they grew up in and to promote domestic tourism which she said had educational benefits.
“First of all, I want to talk about disadvantaged communities. I feel that children are the same and we should work for them as communities. People in positions, people who are in business should think about the communities where they came from.
“In the case of the San community, I am telling the whole country that we should not leave anyone behind. Their lifestyle is like they are in a box they do not know there is another community next door. So we are opening up for them to see what other children also enjoy as they are the same. As a mother you cannot select that I do not travel with this one because she doesn’t know, but it is us the parents who should teach the children and take them to places that we think help them in their lives and the future.
“The country at large, I am saying those who are able please extend your hand to the children who are in need, to the people who are in need. The children are ours and we were also born, what are we doing to those parents where we came from let alone the children that are in our communities?
“To me this is very important because I asked for these children from the parents the last time I went to Bulilima that I would take these children to Victoria Falls to open their minds and to study hard in school.
“The children have told me the trip is an eye opener and that they can now open their minds and can see what they want to be in future. Like any children out there, parents let your children travel, take your children to places of interest,” she said.
The First Lady said children were fast learners who needed to be allowed to travel so that they relax and learn.
“Children learn more than us old people. So I am saying to our people in this country visit all the places that we have in our country what we call domestic tourism. It should be done and must be done by us.
“People from other countries come to our country and they ask us where is this place and we don’t even know the place and what happens there. I am encouraging everyone even to visit and see what your country is endowed with.”
Asked what drove her passion to uplift children from humble backgrounds, the mother of the nation said she grew up in similar circumstances.
“Everyone has a background. If I ask you, we all have backgrounds that we grew up in and how you were brought up in your families. Mine is more less the same like these children so I feel for them and I know the needs that’s why I also visited the Doma people in Kanyemba and also went to Bulilima. Their lives, the lifestyle is the same.”
There are people in our country, very few people know that we have people like these communities. These two communities are the same look at the way they live, the houses, their needs,” she said.
Everything has a beginning and what the children from the San community are going through, heralds a new era. Herald