BY NUNURAI JENA
THE Primary and Secondary Education ministry has said primary school teachers must be conversant in at least three indigenous languages by the time they finish their training for them to be employable.
Speaking at a belated International Mother’s Language Day (IMLD) commemoration at the University of Zimbabwe on Friday last week, principal director of curriculum development and technical devices John Dewah, who read ministry secretary Tumisang Thabela’s speech, said since in the first four years of education a child should be taught in their mother language or the language they understand better, it was a pre-requisite for teachers to be adequately equipped.
“Since learners are supposed to learn in their mother’s language in the first four years of their education, the ministry requires a trained primary school teacher to know at least three indigenous languages because that will be the medium of instruction … from the 16 official languages it is possible” Dhewa said.
This generated fierce debate among the delegates who felt that the ministry was burdening teachers who were struggling to cope with the demands of the new curriculum.
Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Raymond Majongwe said government was trying to be smart yet the problem facing the education sector was their creation because the country had no education policy 37 years after independence.
Majongwe said government was trying to pacify the current outcry, emanating from Matabeleland region that teachers from that area were overlooked during the recent recruitment exercise.
“Somebody is trying to be clever here. The government is trying to solve the current problem in the country without involving all stakeholders. If government decides to go it alone without stakeholders it will not work … it will be difficult to implement,” Majongwe said.
Speaking at the same event, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) regional officer for Southern Africa, Moses Mukabeta, said Zimbabwe had failed to meet United Nations guidelines which stipulates that learners should be taught in indigenous languages in the first six years of schooling.
“Unesco encourages the use of the home language for at least the first six years of formal education” he said.
Unesco said much remains to be done as learners’ mother tongue are rarely the language of instruction during the first years of schooling.
According to Unesco, nearly 40% of the world’s population lacks access to education in a language which they speak or understand.