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NGO fights for Tonga

BULAWAYO — A non-governmental organisation (NGO) in Binga is recruiting Tonga speaking youths to undertake teacher-training courses to ensure that students in that area are taught in their mother tongue.

BY NQOBANI NDLOVU

The NGO, Basilwizi Trust, says having Tonga teachers in Binga is necessary for the preservation of the Tonga language, customs and traditions.

The move will also ensure that the language is given equal treatment to other languages like Ndebele, Shona and English — the country’s current official languages.

There has been an outcry from minority language speaking communities that their languages have not been recognised since independence and were playing second fiddle to English, Ndebele and Shona.

The minority languages have not been taught and examined at schools since 1980. It was only last year that the Ministry of Education, Sport, Arts and  Culture introduced the teaching of Tonga in Binga and pupils sat for their first ever examination in their mother tongue.

According to Josias Mungombe, the Basilwizi Trust project coordinator in charge of education, the organisation has made an agreement with teacher training colleges in the country to reserve a quota for Tonga-speaking youths when they recruit trainees.

“We [Basilwizi Trust] have many programmes that we run, but our emphasis is on education since it is key to the development of any community.

“Without education, it is difficult if not impossible for any community to achieve any development. The development of any community starts with ensuring that the language that they speak is not marginalised but recognised as official,” Mungombe told Standardcommunity.

“This is the reason why we are going deep down in all rural communities of Binga searching for youths who have requisite O’ and A’ level qualifications.

“We want youths here to become teachers and teach the young ones in their mother tongue for the development and preservation of the language, customs and tradition because if we do not do that, in the next five years or so, the language and Tonga people will be history.”

Bulawayo-based analysts hailed Basilwizi Trust for coordinating the recruitment of teacher trainees in Binga, saying it is necessary for the upliftment of the marginalised community.

“If a language of a community is not prioritised, what it means is that the community is not prioritised in terms of development. That is why Binga is still underdeveloped since independence,” said Effie Ncube, the chairman of the Matabeleland Constitutional Reform Agenda (Macra).

“Language is by far the most important tool for development. There is no person that can develop outside their language.

“Until such a time when the Tonga language and our languages are professionalised and used as a language for communication, there will be no development,” said Thabani Nyoni, the executive director of Bulawayo Agenda and spokesperson of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition.

“The best way to develop a people is to allow them to think and express themselves in their language,” he said.

Chief Sikalenge of Binga weighed in saying he wanted students in Binga to be taught by only Tonga-speaking teachers.

Though the Education ministry last year approved the teaching of Tonga in Binga, the Zimbabwe Schools Examinations Council (Zimsec) recently issued a circular indicating that the language will not be examined this year.

This led to Basilwizi Trust, the Zimbabwe Indigenous Languages Promotion Association (Zilpa) and chiefs from Binga raising their concerns with Education minister, David Coltart over the directive. Zimsec later withdrew its circular.

What are Zim’s official languages?

According to the Copac draft constitution, Chewa, Chibarwe, English, Kalanga, Koisan, Nambya, Ndau, Ndebele, Shangani, Shona, sign language, Sotho, Tonga, Tswana, Venda and Xhosa will be recognised as official languages in Zimbabwe.

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