Tonga is now an official part of the Grade 7 syllabus which pupils will be tested on in the first-ever examination later this year, a Cabinet minister said Monday.
Education, Sport, Arts and Culture minister David Coltart told NewsDay the government was committed to ensuring all minority languages were taught in the country.
“This progress has transpired as part of a policy to assist all marginalised indigenous languages to be recognised and protected,” he said.
“The ultimate goal is to take these languages right through to high school.”
In 2009, when Coltart took over the Education portfolio, he pledged that all minority languages would be taught especially at schools where they were predominant.
Tonga will become the third indigenous language after Shona and Ndebele to be tested as part of the official school syllabus.
Coltart said materials to assist in making indigenous languages a part of the school syllabus were being prepared.
“We will need to find teachers who can teach the languages as well as the textbooks required for the pupils to learn from and aid for this will be coming from the Education Transition Fund,” he said.
Coltart said the development was a culmination of consultations held with the people of Binga regarding marginalisation of their language, particularly since more than one million people use the language daily in the region.
Binga North MP Patrick Sibanda, who has been lobbying for the inclusion of Tonga in the mainstream education system up to Advanced Level, Monday expressed his pleasure over the development.
“I am very happy with the decision, now my children will be able to learn their own language,” said Sibanda in an interview Monday.
“With time I hope Tonga will be taught in all other areas the language covers, right through to Advanced Level and at university level.” Coltart said future testing would also be done in other minority languages including Kalanga, Venda, Shangaan, Chewa (Nyanja), Nambya and Sotho.
He said learning materials for minority languages will be funded under the $70 million Unicef donation released last year to the Education Transition Fund to revive the education sector.