Home » Industry » Zimbabwe: Misihairabwi Fumes Over Non-Ndebele Speaking Teachers in Matebeleland, Dokora Says Government Unfazed

PRIMARY and Secondary Education minister Lazarus Dokora has played down claims the deployment of non-Ndebele speaking teachers in Matabeleland schools has contributed to the high failure rate in the provinces.

Villagers in parts of the country's predominantly Ndebele speaking western provinces have reportedly besieged schools demanding the transfer of teachers who were failing to speak the local language to their children.

The parents are adamant this has contributed to the massive failure rate in a region already protesting decades of marginalisation by the current government.

Matabeleland South Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, who has been passionate about the affairs of the province, said in parliament last week that the country's Constitution placed all16 official languages "at par".

She further challenged Dokora during parliament's question and answer session to spell out government policy regarding situations that have ignited the current stand-off between villagers and educators in Matabeleland.

"We have realised that this has caused a low pass rate, especially in such areas and most of the time it is people who are coming from Mashonaland who are deployed to teach in Matabeleland," Misihairabwi-Mushonga said in Ndebele.

Dokora, in his response, denied children's poor performance had anything to do with teachers' failure to express themselves in local languages.

"...To associate language and failure on a one-to-one relationship is misleading and is not educational in terms of an analysis of this phenomenon of pass rates or performance of learners," he said.

"If it were true that it is on a one-to-one relationship, I would be getting 100% passes in those areas where the teacher is a mother language speaker of that area. We must disabuse ourselves of that conception."

Misihairabwi-Mushonga further asked Dokora how elementary education pupils not yet familiar with the alternative English language could best be taught in cases of educators also unfamiliar with local languages.

"...Should the teacher remain there or is supposed to be changed or what is it that the parents are supposed to do?" she persisted.

Dokora, in his response, was quick to caution against the "dramatic" ouster teachers who were unfamiliar with local languages.

"While I have a lot of sympathy for the infant school module where I am conscious of that fact that we must communicate to these children in as homely and appropriate language as we can, it cannot be done in a dramatic fashion," he said.

"I particularly noted the use of the word "ukuxotshwa". I do not think as a country we can actually say "abantu kabaxhotshwe" on account of language."

Dokora said the 2013 national Constitution, which identifies 16 official languages, was only new and could not have been expected to fit into an education system that has been in existence for decades.

"As a Ministry," he added," we have taken the necessary first steps and already we have slightly over 322 teachers who are under training through the Great Zimbabwe University in their various languages - Chichangani, Chitonga, Nambya and so on.

"Because we do not ourselves discriminate between saying are you a mother speaker of Nambya or are you a mother speaker of Ndebele to train to become a teacher in that particular area.

"We take a national outlook because those that qualify and satisfy the entry requirements of the sister Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education in these institutions proceed to register and we are happy ourselves to use those kinds of human resources. As part of a process the training of the 322 will add more teachers in the course of this year."

Dokora said it was much better to have schools manned by teachers unfamiliar with local languages than to allow schools to go without any educators.

"In those areas where we have deficit for the infant school module, it is still far much better to have a trained human resource manning that class than to have a zero human resource or simply say to kids, stay at home.

"The trained human resources will find ways and means including the use of the English language in limited vocabulary range as they train and interact with the children in the infant school module. But to expect an instant solution over a span of two years, I think it is to be optimistic."