Zimbabwe’s education ministry has announced plans to adopt indigenous languages as the media of instruction from “four year-olds up to Grade 2” (Early Child Development level and early primary school).

Primary and Secondary Education minister Lazarus Dokora said pupils, “will be instructed in the [16 official] languages that have been accepted in our Constitution,” the Southern Eye reported.

The Constitution recognises 16 official languages: Chewa, Chibarwe, English, Kalanga, Khoisan, Nambya, Ndebele, Ndau, Shangaani, Shona, sign language, Sotho, Tonga, Tswana, Venda and Xhosa.

“That is the focus that we are now going to take and those are the steps that we are going to implement. We now have teachers that are advancing themselves in those languages such as Nambya, Tonga, Shangani, Venda and others,” the Southern Eye quoted the minister.

Minister Lazarus Dokora says teachers now have advanced indigenous languages proficiency Photo: British Council

Dokora was responding to a question by Zanu PF legislator Joseph Chinotimba in a parliamentary session last week. The Zanu PF parliamentarian queried when the education ministry would craft a policy to enable the adoption of indigenous languages as a medium of instruction.

“When are we going to respect our local languages such as Shona and Ndebele so that we are able to work mathematical problems either in Ndebele or in Shona?…When are we going to change our mindset so that our education is administered in our local language for our children?” Chinotimba questioned.

Only last week, Ghana announced much bolder plans to eliminate English as the medium of instruction in its schools and push through a language policy which allow pupils to be taught in their mother tongue.

Earlier this year, Tanzania announced plans of its own to remove English as the medium of instruction in its schools.