The embattled Minister of Education and Skills Development, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, this week dismissed suggestions her ministry trampled on pupils’ human rights by not introducing mother tongue literacy at grass roots levels.
Tribal minorities feel sidelined by the government’s reluctance to introduce the same in primary schools and beyond.
The tribal minorities, including Basarwa and Bayei amongst others, feel alienated and marginalized as their children are not taught in their mother tongues while the rest of the ‘so called’ major tribes are taught in their Setswana mother tongue – a move which they believe places children from major tribes on an advantage over others.
However, answering a question posed by the Okavango MP, Bagalatia Arone, Venson-Moitoi parried the notions her ministry was discriminatory, citing the Revised National Policy on Education of 1994, which recommended the use of mother tongue in schools but was deferred by parliament.
“It is, therefore, unjustified to say that my Ministry has failed. The Ministry continues to make it possible for 1st year entrants into the school system to be assisted to make the transition between mother tongue and the two official languages,” said Venson-Moitoi, adding that “my ministry is also piloting a public-private partnership programme called Thuto Isago Trust Teacher Aide programme in three Gantsi Primary schools of Kuke, D’Kar and Xanagas”.
In this programme, teacher aides are placed in Standard One classes to translate lessons using the mother tongue of the children to close the teaching-learning language barrier.
The project started in 2010 and is expected to end in July 2011.
At the same time, she said, government, through the Ministry of Youth Sport and Culture, continues to encourage communities to preserve and promote their cultures and language, adding that this was another medium of learning that parents could also use to promote language at home.
“Let me also point out that the major issue that we need to resolve as a nation is the determination of a comprehensive national language policy, which will provide guidance to all sectors with regard to language,” Venson- Moitoi concluded.
The Ministry of Education, under her stewardship, has of late come under the spotlight while she incurred a humiliating grade as the worst performer as decided by the Performance Management Team spearheaded by the Vice President.
Arone, a Moyei representing his tribe in parliament, feels government is not doing enough to break the impasse and believes government is blatantly violating the rights of his tribe and other tribal minorities by not teaching their children in their mother tongues.