Communities in Bulawayo and its hinterland have expressed dismay over the continued deployment of non-Ndebele speaking teachers in the region.
This came after the ministry of Education released names of teachers to be deployed to different parts of Zimbabwe.
Most of those deployed into the Matabeleland region have Shona surnames.
Neutrals believe that the problem should not be the deployment of teachers from other regions into Matabeleland, but that it can only become an issue if they fail to speak the local language and to communicate meaningfully with the students.
But the militant Mthwakazi Republic Party insisted this week that Matabeleland jobs belong to people from the region and anything less than that will not be acceptable.
Contacted for comment on the issue, Primary and Secondary Education permanent secretary Tumisang Thabela said their job is not to select teachers but they receive names from the Public Service Commission (PSC), which deals with the recruitment of government employees.
Efforts to get comment from the PSC were fruitless.
Communities in Matabeleland fear that the deployment of non-Ndebele speaking teachers in the region will distort their language and erode their culture.
“We cannot appreciate the deployment of teachers who cannot even communicate in local languages at the expense of equally qualified locals, right now my Grade 3 daughter speaks proper Shona yet she is clueless when it comes to Ndebele words, which is really not fair,” said one parent who declined to be named.
Some activists are accusing government of intentionally trying to erode the Ndebele culture and working against devolution.
“The deployment of non-local languages speaking teachers in Matabeleland in large numbers by the government is not new and is also not a coincidence. It is a deliberate attempt to destroy Matabeleland identity, language and culture from the grassroots,” said Presia Ngulube, a Mthwakazi activist.
Some activists are therefore encouraging concerned citizens to raise their grievances through a petition.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Raymond Majongwe said the concerns being raised are valid considering the recorded zero percent pass rate in Matabeleland.
Majongwe called for the establishment of a board to oversee appointments as is done in other countries.
“This mammoth responsibility cannot be left to five people sitting in an office at PSC, and to avoid such things government should involve stakeholders such that those with qualifications are selected properly,” Majongwe said.
“The coincidence that there are 90 percent Shona names raises eyebrows even when we know there are several who are born there. What of the Nambya, Tonga, Venda, Kalanga and Sotho names? Some who were there on the first list?”
They are some who feel that the problem is not the deployment of Shona teachers to Matabeleland, but it becomes an issue if the teachers fail to speak the local language and to communicate meaningfully with the students.
“The point whether one is Tonga, Kalanga, Ndebele or Shona doesn’t matter, anyone can teach in Zimbabwe because what matters is that person’s teaching skills, ability to adapt and above all have a good command of English as a teaching language,” said one Bulawayo resident.
“The only problem will then emanate when that same teacher is supposed to teach an infant and there is language barrier, infants communicate and understand concepts better in their own mother language.”