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Govt to introduce mother tongues in schools

Afrikaans, Indebele, Shona, Sesarwa among new school languages expected as soon as January 2022

INSET: Basic Education Minister Fidelis Molao

After many decades of a tussle between politicians, Non-Governmental Organizations, minority tribes, and the government, the Ministry of Basic Education has finally drafted a Languages for Education Policy, to provide guidance on implementation of mother tongue teaching in schools.

The policy is a product of team work with language experts at the University of Botswana.

When presenting the policy to the public last week, Minister of Basic Education, Fidelis Molao, said the policy will “serve as a democratic and unifying factor for a proud and self-respecting nation. It aims to promote languages development and facilitate access to relevant quality education by all leaners”.

He added that the policy will facilitate systematic transition from home to school using mother tongue for instruction. “It will furthermore provide a framework to guide the development and use of different languages not only as medium of instruction but also as subjects in the long term,” he said.

Molao said the draft policy among others, provides guidance on which languages may be used as a medium of instruction and which ones may be used as subjects; and determines the nature of materials to be prepared in terms of cultural, political, social and economic content in the curriculum.

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The draft policy suggests the introduction of mother tongue at pre-primary level until Standard 2 to allow smooth transition.

At this point, the minister said, there are ongoing investigations on local languages development and 11 languages have been identified. “These 11 languages are proposed for Phase 1 implementation from January 2022 on grounds that they are highly developed in terms of description, codification, orthography as well as reading materials. These languages are mostly cross-border languages, taught in countries such as South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Namibia, which means it would be easy to get readily available instructional materials for adaptation”.

The identified languages are Shiyeyi, ThiMbukushu, Ikalanga, Shekgalagari, Chikuhani (Sesubiya), Isindebele, Afrikaans, Naro (Sesarwa), Shona, Otjiherero, and Sign Language.

Setswana language will be introduced at Standard One to Standard Three as a medium of instruction, thereafter, it shall be taught as a subject and remain a compulsory subject for all citizens.

The ministry will embark on nation-wide stakeholder consultations from August until October.

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