Education minister Lazarus Dokora has earned a reputation of coming up with new policy measures every week and this time it was announced that subjects like mathematics and science will be taught in indigenous languages.
Source: Execution key to language policy success – NewsDay Zimbabwe February 6, 2017
Comment; NewsDay Editor
Dokora has attracted severe criticism over his policies and the haste with which he introduces them, but for once, he has to be applauded for introducing something long overdue.
Teaching of subjects in local languages, particularly in the early primary grades, is important for children to understand and conceptualise what they are being taught.
Many pupils struggle, not because they are dull, but because they are being taught new things in a language that they do not understand.
There is an outcry that teaching subjects in local languages may be difficult, but for the sceptics they don’t have to look much further than Botswana, where there is a flourishing two-tier system of English and Tswana medium schools.
But while there is praise for Dokora, there is need for measured optimism, as again we feel the implementation is superficial and the policy was announced too hastily for it to have effect.
For instance, people in Matabeleland have often accused the government of deploying teachers in that area who do not understand local languages and this has affected pupils’ grasping of concepts.
This has been a sore issue for people in that region for a long time, but which the government has routinely swatted.
If Dokora’s language policy is to work, then teachers conversant with an area’s dominant language should be deployed there.
It would be foolhardy for the government to deploy a non-Kalanga speaking teacher in Plumtree, for example, as there is bound to be resistance, while the teacher may fail to explain concepts in a nuanced way.
Thus, before embarking on this new language policy, Dokora should have first carried out an audit to see where staff are deployed and if it is feasible to introduce this plan.
The policy may look good on paper and be totally difficult to implement because of structural shortcomings.
Dokora must ensure he has the right personnel with the ability to implement his policies before rushing to announce changes to the curriculum.
We hope Dokora thought this policy through and did not just rush to implement these changes, as this could be disastrous.
The language policy is long overdue and should precipitate more involvement from learners in future, if implemented well.