Zimbabwe constitution amendment number 20 of 2013 identified 16 official languages which are now being taught in schools, particularly in specific indigenous languages local area.
The 16 languages are Chewa, Chibarwe, ChiShona, English, Kalanga, Khoisan, Nambya, Ndau, IsiNdebele, Shangani, Xhosa, Sign Language, Sesotho, Tonga, Tswana and Venda.
However, there is marginalisation of some of the languages that are regarded as minority and various stakeholders are pushing for a deliberate policy for the promotion of these indigenous languages at
household level and in schools.
Speaking at the national languages conference that started in Victoria Falls yesterday, various presenters said indigenous languages are key in making sure people participate in national programmes and implementation of the development agenda.
National Language Institute executive director Professor Wiseman Magwa said it is embarrassing that Zimbabweans are discussing whether or not indigenous languages should be official languages or medium of instruction in education 42 years after independence.
“Zimbabwe as a nation has experienced foreign invasion and power domination from 1890 with the result that the colonial powers superimposed their languages over already existing indigenous languages,” he said.
Prof Magwa said attempts have been made by colonial governments to suppress the indigenous languages and relegate them to the confines of the informal sector.
Even after independence, some languages have been marginalised and this is a cause for lack of unity and development in the country, experts say.
“We need to seriously think and plan for the 99 percent of the population that speak the 15 indigenous languages. Language is a right and national resource. Let’s not underrate indigenous languages, they are very important. You can only penetrate people’s minds through their language,” he said.
Hillside Teachers’ College principal Linda Sibindi said learners in schools should be made to learn more than one indigenous language other than their home language.
“We need to invest time and effort to develop our languages. If government messages are not put in indigenous languages they will go a long way in making sure people are part and parcel of national
development,” said Sibindi.
Lupane State University lecturer Dr Busani Maseko said nationhood and unity are borne out of language diversity.