Secretary of Ikalanga Language and Cultural Development Association in Zimbabwe, Tshidzanani Malaba has encouraged Bakalanga to push government to introduce Ikalanga as a medium of instruction in public schools.
Giving a keynote address at Domboshaba cultural festival early this week, Malaba said without Ikalanga language in the local education system, Bakalanga are doomed. “To regain your language this calls for passion and life serving sacrifice particularly by the younger generation. Adults have more to protect, fears of legacy loss in business, relations, employment and partnerships. Systematic engagement of government is required; sacrifice of resources and time is unavoidable by the visionary leadership. I will urge you to collaborate with other marginalised languages; ride on any waves of crisis to sell your passion. The worst economic years in Zimbabwe were the best “yes” years by the government of the day,” Malaba pointed out.
Malaba observed that public launch of Kalanga text books took out a lot of BaKalanga from hibernation and they have since become collaborators. He further appealed to his fellow Bakalanga in Botswana to sit down and translate Setswana Language syllabus into Kalanga, incentivise teachers who speak iKalanga to have deliberate interest in Kalanga. “Do not bask on politicians for a way forward; they are the last people to advocate for sustainable development of the language. Add “language” to your organisation’s name to become: Domboshaba Festival of Language and Culture,” he averred. Malaba explained that Bakalanga should be ready to fight many professional battles from all angles and from within BaKalanga who will reject their language.
He buttressed that revival of iKalanga cannot be done by sponsored activists or employees who are dependent on salary, hand-outs or donor support. Malaba further mentioned that the revival of the language will be done by self-motivated visionaries who cannot be compromised under any circumstances. “Today, iKalanga is taught in Zimbabwe primary schools, some high schools, two teachers colleges and three universities. We desire to see private and public schools embracing iKalanga in urban settings. We desire to add a price tag to iKalanga as a language of Trade and Commerce, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics as it was in yester years,” he reasoned. Malaba opined that IKalanga has clear traces of evidence that it has always been a factor in peace, reconciliation and development in Southern Africa. He articulated that there is a clear history of traditional systems of governance which if studied, understood in a deeper sense and adopted can transform the regional governance. Domboshaba cultural festival is a Kalanga festival that is aimed at promoting and preserving Bakalanga culture. The event which is held annually has grown in leaps and bounds and it is one of the largest cultural festivals in the country
The opposition, Botswana Congress Party (BCP) has been very vocal about the introduction of indigenous languages as a medium of instruction in public primary schools. The party even included the issue in their 2014 elections manifesto. BCP vice president, Dr Kesetegile Gobotswang indicated that introducing indigenous languages in schools is a human rights issue and it will preserve culture. Gobotswang observed that UNESCO has carried a comprehensive research on the matter and it was discovered that students learn quicker when taught using their mother tongue. “Non Tswana speaking students are faced with a challenge of language barrier at schools hence some of them end up quitting school. We have been vindicated as the ruling BDP now concurs with us that introduction of mother tongue in schools has to be done,” Gobotswang explained. He emphasized that introducing indigenous languages in schools promotes unity in diversity. He buttressed that once the UDC attains power, they will set up a department in the ministry of basic education that will facilitate the introduction of minority languages.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi has already promised that if BDP retains power after the October 23rd general elections, they will introduce minority languages as a medium of instruction in public primary schools. When launching BDP parliamentary candidate for Ghanzi North, John Thite recently, President Mokgweetsi Masisi promised that if his party retains power they will introduce mother tongue as a medium of instruction in public primary schools. While addressing a kgotla meeting at Bokspits this week, Masisi once again reiterated that his government is committed in ensuring that indigenous languages are introduced in schools. However, the president has not set a time frame when the policy will be implemented.
Linguistic expert at the Unibversity of Botswana, Professor Thapelo Otlogetswe declined to comment on the matter saying he is currently in the United States of America. The Patriot on Sunday was seeking expert opinion on the value of introducing indingenous languages in school curricular and the feasibility of such being achieved in three months when schools re-open in January 2020.