By Nomalanga Moyo
SW Radio Africa
01 July 2014
The government has promised to investigate the deployment of non-Ndebele speaking primary teachers in Matebeleland schools, following a public outcry.
Deputy Education Minister Paul Madzima is expected to lead a team that will begin its visit in Matebeleland South, where five schools have ditched Ndebele lessons in favour of Shona, allegedly for lack of Ndebele-conversant instructors.
Madzima said his team will then go to Matebeleland North and the Midlands to assess the situation on the ground, adding that the issue had been raised “at the highest level” by senior ZANU PF Minister Simon Khaya Moyo.
Last week at a writers indaba held in Bulawayo, deputy provincial education director Richard Swene reignited the debate when he slammed the Public Service Commission over its teacher deployment policy.
In comments that resonated with the meeting, Swene blamed the government’s deployment policy for learners’ poor performance in a region where many schools registered a 100% failure rate in the last ‘O’ Level exams.
“Our primary education policy clearly stipulates that children between the ages of 7 and 9 must be taught in their mother tongue. It becomes impossible for us to achieve good results when we have non-Ndebele speaking teachers teaching these young children,” Swene told the meeting.
In an interview with SW Radio Africa on Tuesday, veteran educationist and politician Moses Mzila-Ndlovu blamed “ZANU PF’s policy failures in terms of the distribution of educational opportunities in teacher training,” for the crisis.
“What we are seeing now is a result of 34 years of marginalisation of the people of Matebeleland in the provision of education. This has been a deliberate ZANU PF policy whose consequence is a real shortage of Ndebele-speaking teachers.
“Although Matebeleland had enough primary teacher training colleges, locals who qualify to train as teachers are sidelined during the selection process in favour of candidates from other regions.
“When pupils cannot communicate with their teacher because of the language barrier it further alienates the children from the education system.
“Of course the teacher will draw his/her salary at the end of the month but the child would not have benefitted from exposure to the education system because the medium was incomprehensible to the child,” Mzila added.
Mzila dismissed the planned visit by education ministry officials to the region, saying it was just for show. He said the issue has been raised many times before but the government has tended to turn a blind eye because doing so fits in with the Mugabe regime’s broader agenda of under-developing the Matebeleland region.”
He urged the education ministry to “revisit its skewed and discriminatory enrolment process and consider local trainees as well.
“The reality is Matebeleland is facing political marginalisation and those who claim that raising this is tribalism are those who want to prevent debate on these issues because they are benefitting from the prevailing uneven playing field,” the firebrand MDC politician added.
On Monday, outspoken MDC-T official Job Sikhala said one way around the problem would be to make Shona, Ndebele and English compulsory subjects in all primary schools in the country.
“Just like English which we learn from pre-school, Shona and Ndebele must be given the same status in our curriculum. Despite having other minority languages, the three languages are the most spoken in our country and it will be beautiful for all Zimbabweans to speak them,” a multilingual Sikhala said.
Others however have suggested ditching the teaching of indigenous languages altogether, and say emphasis should instead be placed on teaching sciences.