EDUCATION Sport, Arts and Culture minister David Coltart has blocked moves by Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (Zimsec) to make teaching of the Tonga language in Binga optional ahead of Ndebele and Shona.
Report by Nqobile Bhebhe
The plan would have resulted in Grade Seven pupils sitting for five subjects instead of four.
Binga is predominantly a Tonga and Nambya-speaking area.
Last week local traditional leader Chief Sinansengwe told NewsDay that they were shocked by the circular that detailed the plans.
Sinansengwe said they were contemplating withdrawing children from schools if the plan was implemented.
“We saw a circular towards the end of February stating that Tonga should now be an optional language ahead of Ndebele and Shona,” he said.
“We found it very strange in that the circular was contravening the current one, which resulted in our children writing Tonga in Grade Seven public examinations set by Zimsec.
The chief said they were planning to engage the Ministry of Education over the emotive issue.
“All avenues would be exploited to solve the issue and if it all fails then we have no choice, but to approach the president (Robert Mugabe),” he said.
“We cannot be treated as foreigners in our country”.
But Coltart told NewsDay that he was not consulted before the directive was issued and had since written to Zimsec ordering it to reverse the move.
According to correspondence from Coltart to Zimsec on the matter, the public examninations body’s moves contradicted provisions in the draft constitution.
“My attention has been drawn by the Minister of Public Works (Joel Gabbuza) to the contents of paragraph 1(a) of Zimsec Circular Number 1 of 2013, which effectively forces children whose mother tongue is Tonga, Chivenda, Xichangana and Nambya to write a 5th subject at Grade 7.
“I note this marks a change from the previous policy circular (see Circular 2 of 2011)”, wrote Coltart in a letter also copied to Zimsec board chairman Norman Maphosa and Gabbuza.
“This provision is in direct conflict with Section 6 (3) (b) of the proposed new constitution, which states that all officially recognised languages be treated equally.
“Although the new constitution has not come into effect yet, I think it is important that all Ministry of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture’s policies be compatible with the aspirations and content of the proposed new Constitution.
“Accordingly, please immediately ensure that the directive is rescinded and that we revert to the situation, which prevailed before in terms of Circular 2 of 2011.”
The Tonga language was for the first time in the history of Zimbabwe in October 2011 officially tested at Grade Seven level.
Last year, villagers in Binga threatened to withdraw their children from school if the proposed constitution does not recognise and enforce the teaching of minority languages in schools.