While the people of Matabeleland have been complaining about some teachers and lecturers teaching local students in Shona, Mashonaland Central has been busy embracing Ndebele as a national language.
“Salibonani,” the children speak in unison as we enter a Grade 5 class at Umvukwesi Primary School in Mvurwi.
“Sikhona, linjani bantwana?” we answered.
“Thina siyaphila,” they replied, before sitting down.
One could have been forgiven for thinking that we were in the heart of Matabeleland, but this is Mashonaland Central where Ndebele has been introduced as part of the school curriculum.
Pupils at Umvukwesi are breaking the language barriers to unify Zimbabwe.
The idea of introducing national languages across the board was first mooted by education officials in Mashonaland Central before being put on the debate table by the Education Ministry.
Umvukwesi Primary School has set the ball rolling as a pilot project.
“We found it rational to introduce it as a communicable language first in 2001. The emphasis was placed on the national spectrum in that communication would be made easier,” said the headmaster of Umvukwesi, Andrew Taruvinga.
“We thought that the language might be of use, in case the children might find themselves in Ndebele-speaking regions, thus they will be able to apply the basics of the language,” he added.
Taruvinga said the whole school, which comprises more than 450 pupils, was now able to read and write isiNdebele.
To test his assertion, the headmaster took us to a Grade One class where two pupils picked at random showed their new language skill.
“Igama lami nguRopafadzo Mukwati, ngivela emaphandleni eShamva (My name is Ropafadzo Mukwati, I come from Shamva),” said a seven-year-old.
“Namhla kuyatshisa, engxenye izulu lingana (Today it is hot, maybe it will rain),” added another seven-year-old boy who wanted to show his proficiency in the language.
Taruvinga is proud of the legacy his school is creating.
He said: “Impressed by the enthusiasm displayed by the kids, the Ndebele community in the surrounding areas have come en masse to help in the setting and moderation of the subject.
“The problem was that supervisors from the district and the province are Shona speakers who were hitting a brick wall in as far as supervision of the subject is concerned viz-a-vis the curricula and the syllabi.”
Taruvinga said they had now set their target on grasping the concept before the first class can sit the Grade Seven national examinations in the not-too-distant future.
Taruvinga said the other major obstacle they were facing was the shortage of Ndebele teaching resources.
“The whole school of more than 12 classes is being catered for by only two teachers who are finding it hard to cope with the increasing demands of the subject,” he said.
Taruvinga added that the children are showing a lot of excitement and enthusiasm about the subject.
“It’s amazing that you find the pupils using the Ndebele language everywhere, whether it’s on the playing fields or in the school corridors. They are now just proud of the language,” he said.
Nancy Mudiwa, the District Education Officer for the Mvurwi area, concurred with the headmaster on the need to augment the available resources.
“Emphasis should be put on widening the obtaining resource base like increasing Ndebele teaching staff and buying more textbooks before the subject can be transformed from being communicable to examinable,” she said.
Mudiwa said more schools in the region were now clamouring for the subject after witnessing the successful Umvukwesi Primary School pilot project.
“Issues pertaining to the sound administration of the subject must first be addressed before the subject can be offered to other schools,” she said.
Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Raymond Majongwe said the idea was a brilliant move which must be applauded by all.
“I would want to believe that pupils must be able to converse in all the recognised languages in this country so that we may become one,” he said.
“We should not become foreign in our land and I would want to pray for a situation where Tonga is taught in Manicaland, Kalanga in Masvingo and Venda in Mashonaland,” said Majongwe.
Walter Vengesai, a linguistics expert formerly with the Midlands State University, said students from Mashonaland Central should be applauded for piloting the Ndebele project as language plays a significant role in unifying a nation.
He said: “Language is a major vehicle for fomenting conflicts or uniting people all over the world. A considerable number of tribal and genocidal conflicts have been caused by differences mainly in language, so the universality of language plays a significant role in uniting people.
“Language difference has been used by merchants of tribalism as a means of identifying the perceived enemy, so the future generation has actually shamed those who harboured fuelling tribal conflicts in future as it will be difficult to identify enemies or foes through the use of language.”
Source – Sunday Mail