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No exams for indigenous languages

Government is not yet ready to offer examinations in most of the 16 languages recognised by the new constitution due to shortages of textbooks and trained teachers for those languages, a Cabinet minister has said.

BY VENERANDA LANGA

Primary and Education minister Lazarus Dokora told the Senate that there were not enough textbooks and teachers for the subjects.

He was responding to a question by Matabeleland South MDC-T senator, Sithembile Mlotshwa who wanted to know when government would start setting examinations in the indigenous languages recognised by the constitution.

“The essence of the question is to say, do we have pointers that at some point we are going to have examinations in all 16 languages and the answer is yes, at some point but in the future,” said Dokora. “However, as long as I do not have teachers and textbooks for those languages, it is impossible to do that immediately.”

Chapter 1:6 (1) of the new constitution says Chewa, Chibarwe, English, Kalanga, Koi San, Nambya, Ndau, Ndebele, Shangaani, Shona, Sign language, Sotho, Tonga, Tswana, Venda and Xhosa are the officially recognised languages in the country.

Dokora said it was imperative for MPs to identify youngsters at their constituencies who were competent in indigenous languages in order to encourage them to train as teachers of those languages.
“It will be a miracle to respond to that request for exams in indigenous languages in a very short space of time,” he said. “As long as I do not have teachers, I will have to make do with what I have.”

In the National Assembly, MDC-T legislator Ruth Labode also queried why teachers who could not speak Tonga were deployed to teach Grade One pupils in areas such as Binga.

Deputy Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Paul Mavima said his ministry was looking at ways to ensure there was training of teachers in indigenous languages.

“Even though our ministry is not responsible for the deployment of teachers, I want the House to know that we are seized with this issue of languages,” said Mavima. “We are concerned about the training of teachers who will be able to teach these specific languages.”

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