By Vusumuzi Dube and Lungile Tshuma
AT least five primary schools in Matabeleland South have reportedly been forced to teach Shona as the indigenous language due to a shortage of Ndebele-speaking teachers as the issue of deployment of teachers continues to raise dust.
Teachers and some officials from the province confirmed the development, adding that there was a need for urgent action not only over the issue of Ndebele teachers but other languages in the region.
Investigations revealed that schools in Matabeleland South that were no longer teaching Ndebele and instead were teaching Shona include Mthwakazi, Mpalawani, Gwamanyanga, Mpopoti and Zhabazha primary schools.
Both Thokozani primary and secondary schools are said to have no single Ndebele-speaking teacher.
Some of the schools are on the border with Mberengwa which has Shona-speaking people.
A teacher at Mthwakazi Primary School, who declined to be named, said the issue had been brought up many times at the School Development Committee meetings but each time it was swept under the carpet.
“The state of schools in the area is very terrible and unacceptable. Most schools are no longer teaching Ndebele at all because there are no Ndebele-speaking teachers. To make matters worse, temporary teachers, who are being deployed at these schools, can’t even utter a single Ndebele word. We have raised this issue in many platforms but we have been labelled tribalist,” said the teacher.
Another teacher from Gwamanyanga Primary School said they had been instructed at the last minute to teach the examination classes (Grade 7) so that pupils could be in a position to write the Ndebele paper.
“They asked me to teach Grade Seven Ndebele but I refused because I can’t teach more lessons than other teachers yet at the end of the day we get the same salary. I openly told them if there is a shortage of teachers, they must say so and employ people to fill the positions rather than overburdening us,” said the teacher.
Some teachers at the affected schools alleged that most school heads in Insiza District could not speak Ndebele.
Although Matabeleland South provincial education director Mrs Tumisang Thabela professed ignorance over the state at the schools saying she would launch an investigation, officials at her office told Sunday News that that problem had been in existence for many years.
“I am getting the information now. As the province we are going to investigate the matter and map the way forward. It is now up to my office to ensure that something is done to address this issue because we want to make sure that local languages are taught,” said Mrs Thabela.
But an official at the ministry’s offices said in some schools pupils had been studying Shona for some time.
“This is the system which has been there for a long time. We have schools with pupils who wrote Shona with none writing Ndebele. I guess the damage has been done and it’s up to the Government to solve this issue,” said the official.
Insiza North member of the National Assembly Andrew Langa confirmed that there were some schools in his constituency that were teaching Shona but said they were teaching both Ndebele and Shona, noting that in some areas pupils came from neighbouring Mberengwa District.
“I am aware that at Mpalawani, Gwamanyanga, Lambamani and Mpopoti primary schools something like that is indeed happening but what I know is that they are teaching both Ndebele and Shona.
“What happens is that these schools are adjacent to Mberengwa District hence it is easier for them to access them than schools in their district. What we must not forget is that Ndebele and Shona are both national languages therefore I see nothing wrong in them being taught in schools,” said Langa, who is also the Zanu-PF Matabeleland South provincial chairperson and Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture.
However, officials said the problem was beyond the issue of Ndebele and Shona but that most indigenous languages were being suppressed because of the unfair deployment of teachers.
They said languages such as Tonga, Kalanga and Venda were also suffering as teachers, who are not familiar with the languages,, were deployed to teach pupils in these areas. Sunday News