Monday, July 4, 2022

Kgathi against introduction of indigenous language for primary school learners

The Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Shaw Kgathi, has said that introducing mother tongue as a medium of instruction for learners in their formative years is a regressive idea of trying to reintroduce a ‘Bantu’ form of Education system.

He outrightly opposed a motion “requesting government to make education more inclusive by introducing mother tongue languages as medium of instruction in primary schools for communities where Setswana is a second language”.

The motion had been tabled by opposition MP Gilson Saleshando of Selebi- Phikwe West constituency.
Saleshando is proposing that in areas like Bokalaka, Bobirwa, Kgalagadi, Tswapong, Chobe and Ngamiland young learners who are struggling with Setswana be taught through their mother tongue effective 2015.

Saleshando says that indigenous languages are critical and cannot be ignored. He told parliament that Botswana’s language policy regards linguistic and cultural diversity as a threat rather than a resource.

He said that research on indigenous and mother tongue education as medium of instruction enhances children’s cognitive abilities and academic achievement.

“To date economic resources continue to be allocated for the exclusive promotion and preservation of English and the link language,Setswana.This practice marginalises the speakers of minority languages and unfairly disadvantages them in accessing opportunities, resources, employment and prevents them from participating in national political processes,” said Saleshando. “It is a fact acknowledged by the Ministry of Education in Botswana that imposition of Setswana as the only medium of instruction in primary schools has contributed significantly to a high level of drop-out and failures among non-tswana speaking children.”

Saleshando said that instead of promoting and preserving culture through Botswana’s diverse languages, Minister Kgathi is manipulating culture to promote his own interest.

“In the mist of linguist and cultural confusion, the BDP government is conducting an invisible language politics of privileging its language of choice and of totally neglecting issues related to minority and ethnic languages..,” he said, adding that linguistic and cultural diversity should be seen as an aid to development of nationalism.

However, Saleshando’s deliberations were forcefully shot down by Kgathi.

“Sebirwa is my language but in this era of globalization I would not support that it should be taught to primary school going children,” said Kgathi.

Kgathi charged that most of the research outlined by the Selebi-Phikwe West legislator had never been tested.

“How practical is it…this motion can be very destructive. We are reintroducing Bantu education approach,” said Kgathi.

Kgathi said that the motion is an elite idea and is hypocritical. He said most of the lobbyist’s for the idea were taking their kids to Private Schools where the medium of Instruction is English and added that it would be unfair to instruct learners in rural areas where Setswana is not their first language, to learn through their mother tongue because language is not a barrier.

“There is no research that children taught in their mother tongue excel better than those instructed in another,” the minister said. “Intellectual capacity is not limited to medium of instruction….the richest people in this country were not taught in their mother tongue,” he told parliament.

Kgathi says that it is trivial to try and link success or educational accomplishment with the medium of instruction at schools.

“There is no evidence….school dropouts in Botswana are largely due to teenage pregnancy, alcohol and drug abuse,” argued Kgathi.


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