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Maun schools to use native languages in teaching

Young learners

Maun Administration Authority (MAA) is preparing to commence teaching of native languages in its primary schools, the council chairperson has confirmed.

Vepaune Moreti of opposition for Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) noted this week that consultation on the modalities of operation is already under way and it will cover eight schools.

“Consultation visits will cover students, teachers and parents in eight schools. The consultants are currently in the sub region with courtesy call already paid to bogosi,” Moreti explained.

The schools to be included are Bonatla, Shashe, Boyei, Tawana, Kareng, and Sehithwa and Bodibeng primary schools.

“It is a welcome development, that is, if the policy takes off. What we have been told is that the plan is to introduce the local languages especially for lower classes,” added North West District council chairperson, Kebareeditse Ntsogotho in a separate interview.

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For the past twenty years Setswana, which is a national language, has been used only in Standard one and breakthrough classes as the government education policy stipulates that from standard two English should be the official medium of instruction.

This for many years was a cause for concern as different human rights groups and educationists argued that it disadvantaged learners. In fact the debate on the subject rises with every issuance of school examination results with schools in the North West, Gantsi and Kgalagadi districts always falling at the bottom of the charts.

The contention has always been that the use of English and Setswana as the medium of delivery in these schools caused their learners to be slow to grasp subjects because languages used in schools differed from the ones they used at home.

However with the commencement of the teaching in native language on the cards, even opposition parties are singing praises for the ruling party.

In a rare moment of praise, Member of Parliament for Ngami, Carter Hikuama commended the ruling Botswana Democratic Party for the development.

“It is long overdue. The commencement of using native languages to teach in schools is a welcome dispensation. We as the Botswana opposition together with human rights activists and the non-Tswana tribes long called for the use of mother tongue as a medium of instruction in Botswana schools. I in particular lobbied for it in different platforms,” Hikuama stated.

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He further noted that this development was not only important for the enrichment of democracy but that it was also a gesture of recognition of all the people of the republic.

“I would like to commend the BDP led government for realizing that the non-Tswana speakers are not second class citizens but full citizens with equal rights just like the Tswana speaking people, to an extend of accepting to include their languages in the education curriculum,” Hikuama said before adding that, “This will go a long way in inculcating and strengthening the culture of patriotism among the non-Tswana speakers, who have been treated like second class citizens by the BDP for almost 55 years of Botswana self rule.”

Hikuama, an educationist by profession says, the new development will also motivate learners and improve their self esteem from those languages to enjoy school more as they will feel more at home.

The challenge of teaching in English and one national language is not only in Botswana but a common practice in many African countries. However according to a recent report by Open society initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), this often leads to lower grades for students whose mother tongue languages are not used in class.

In its report on The Politics of Language as a Medium of Delivery in Education, OSISA has contended that this is baffling because it has been empirically established that children learn best when they are taught in their mother tongue, or at least in a familiar language, “The use of colonial languages for instruction disadvantages children from families who do not speak these languages. This is particularly challenging in the formative grades of schooling,” the report has stated.

So far according to OSISA, Southern African countries that have introduced mother-tongue education in the first three, four or five years of schooling include Namibia, Zambia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

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