Ezra Tshisa Sibanda, Opinion
The Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Evelyn Ndlovu, has said the shortage of Ndebele teachers especially for ECD level up to Grade 3 is due to the reluctance of people from Ndebele-speaking regions to become teachers.
Ndlovu said the majority of learners from Ndebele-speaking regions do not finish secondary school education and instead choose to migrate to South Africa and Botswana.
This is so hurtful, untruthful, very divisive and a huge insult to the people of Matabeleland or Ndebele speaking people. This is exactly the talk which Mugabe used to say about people of Matabeleland which was later repeated by his wife Grace.
For minister Ndlovu to say such crap is shocking and disappointing. From her utterance it means there are no Ndebele speaking people in Matabeleland because they are all in SA.
Madam there are many Ndebele teachers in Matabeleland who can teach Ndebele in primary schools in the region but your ministry continues to deploy them in remote and isolated rural areas just to frustrate them to resign.
Why is the deployment of teachers just like nurses done in Harare?
Why not regions or provinces deploy teachers and nurses to work in their own regions in the spirit of devolution which is enshrined in our constitution?
After all there are plenty retired teachers who can be used to teach ECD to grade 3 in Matabeleland than use teachers who can’t speak the language spoken by children.
Is that fair to let a 4 year old be taught by a stranger who forces a language unknown to the little child?
Common sense should prevail and just feel for these little ones. Perhaps that’s the reason why some schools post zero pass rate in Grade 7.
There is also one thing that has been very worrisome, it is the issue that when you talk about issues of marginalisation, it is always equated to issues of tribalism. It is almost as if we have taken a position as a nation that a particular group in this country is not allowed to say anything without that being equated to tribalism and I think that is unfortunate.
You cannot continue to treat a particular people in a particular attitude and expect that they will not stand up to that kind of oppression. Zimbabwe is for everyone, let it be a fair and just society where people’s languages, culture and traditions are respected.
I’m not a tribalist, l have many Shona friends who understand what l’m talking about and have plenty Shona relatives so don’t take this post of mine out of its context.
I will also complain if in any primary school especially ECD or grade 1 to 3 in predominantly Shona areas, Ndebele langauge is forced on the children by Ndebele teachers.
Language is an embodiment of a culture. It brings one closer to people who use that particular language and is a vehicle of social cohesion, stability and unity. We are after all a single people, having the same identity and destiny.
It is vitally important that as Zimbabweans lets respect one another as people. Those who travel to work in other regions respect the local people and embrace their language than arrogantly refuse to integrate let alone learn the language because you know you can use your power of authority to force them to speak your language.
You know they are desperate as you hold keys to what they are in need of and they will have to learn to speak your language whether they like it or not, otherwise they won’t get help.
The Government should urgently employ teachers to teach IsiNdebele in the Midlands and Matabeleland Provinces to address the shortage of teachers in a number of schools whose communities predominantly speak the language.
There are numerous complaints by parents in some parts of these provinces whose communities are predominantly Ndebele speaking that there is an imbalance on vernacular language teachers which resulted in some schools with IsiNdebele speaking pupils learning ChiShona.
Shona is a language just like Ndebele so let it be taught in predominantly Shona people not in schools where no one speaks the language
Our politicians from Matabeleland and Midlands have been a let down both in the ruling Zanu PF and in the opposition. Whilst in Matebeleland, I always viewed politicians with disdain when they sought to address citizens in ChiShona, failing to as much as string a single sentence in IsiNdebele.
I view that as an ignoble incidence of cultural imperialism and contend that it has no place in our society. Zimbabweans should freely navigate at least the three main languages.
Even the robust exchanges that politicians have in Parliament must reflect, in the language used that we are one people. It is totally unacceptable as has happened in the past that a Parliamentarian can ask a question in one of the main local languages and a government Minister fails to comprehend the question with the result that someone has to either translate or change their language altogether. We need to do a lot better as a country.
Ndebele speakers and indeed the Ndebele language continue to be disenfranchised and marginalised in Zimbabwe.
Although a lot has been written on the marginalisation of the Ndebele language in spaces such as education, the media, politics and the criminal justice system, newer forms of marginalisation keep emerging every day and has shown how ‘official discourses play an important role in naturalising and normalising a certain language ideology.
The media and other spaces in Zimbabwe legitimise and present Shona as the de-facto national language owing to its numerical and political advantage and this in turn accords it symbolic power and dominance over other indigenous languages.
Let’s all be sensible and address this problem as a nation. The minister should never divide our people. I thank you!
- Ezra Tshisa Sibanda is a Zimbabwean journalist passionate about social justice among other issues. He write this in his personal capacity.