Zimbabwe: Union backs new focus on minority languages

published 23 February 2017 updated 27 February 2017

Zimbabwean educators have welcomed the introduction of minority language exams in 2017, acknowledging that teachers were involved in the curriculum review process and indigenous languages are part of the national teacher development programme.

This year sees the introduction of exams in minority languages by the Zimbabwe School Examinations Council. This move is part of the new curriculum spearheaded by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.

“We have three minority languages that are now going to be examined,” said Zimbabwe’s Primary and Secondary Education Minister, Dr Lazarus Dokora.

At advanced level, ChiTonga will be examined for the first time this year, and ChiChangani, Nambia, Venda are now at Grade Seven, he said.

Dokora stressed that introducing the learning of indigenous languages at a very young age helps children to grasp concepts easily, while promoting their identity.

“It has been shown by psychologists that if you teach the child in its mother tongue and it masters that mother language, you can teach it any other language,” he added.

Union consultation

He also noted that his ministry had consulted with stakeholders, as confirmed by the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Union (ZIMTA), an Education International (EI) affiliate.

“Indeed, ZIMTA has been involved in the curriculum review process since 1998, under the guidance of its 1996 and 1997 Conference resolutions seeking to encourage the review of the content and structure of the Zimbabwean curriculum,” said ZIMTA Chief Executive Officer Sifiso Ndlovu.

ZIMTA, as part of its trade union training, developed and then trained curriculum writers, and this can contribute to language development, he added.

“We’ve been instrumental in pushing for the current government-funded teacher development programme, the Teacher Capacity Building programme,” Ndlovu said, adding that the programme has resulted in the training of at least 2,000 educators at state-funded local universities. “Some of these educators have already focused on new curriculum areas, including indigenous languages, mathematics, science, and information and communication technology, just to name a few,” Ndlovu outlined.