The federalist-oriented Matabeleland-based opposition party, Patriotic Union of Matabeleland (Puma), has challenged the Ministry of Education to re-look at its teacher deployment policy to avoid a situation where teachers who could not speak local languages were deployed to teach infants in the region.
In an interview on Monday, the party’s president, Bancinyane Ndiweni, said it was important that the ministry deployed teachers who could speak Ndebele to primary schools in Bulawayo and other Matabeleland regions.
“Education is the pot where children are cooked,” Ndiweni said. “It is worrying that 75% of the teachers are not from the region and even colleges here are flooded with students from other areas.
“We have a problem in terms of the recruitment and deployment of teachers in our primary schools here in Bulawayo and other Matabeleland regions. They can’t speak IsiNdebele,”
Contacted for comment on the issue, the Bulawayo Provincial Education director Dan Moyo said he was unaware there were primary school teachers who could not speak Ndebele in charge of schools in the province.
During the constitutional reform exercise a lot of people in Matabeleland were concerned about the development of local languages, most of which are deemed minority languages.
They called for provisions in the constitution to protect them, together with their cultures, especially in school and in the media.
In the early years of independence, Kalanga and Tonga, which are regarded as minority languages, were taught up to Grade Three.
The ministry is currently working on improving that and has printed a number of textbooks in the languages for primary schools.
Education minister David Coltart has repeatedly expressed his ministry’s commitment to “minority” languages.
Ndiweni said Coltart should walk the talk even in the recruitment of teachers.
“Our children speak Ndebele as the first language and a teacher who understands and can speak that language will be very helpful in their development,” he said.
Over the years there has been increasing concern at the number of non-Ndebele speaking teachers in Matabeleland’s primary schools, a situation activists have said endangered the teaching of the language.