HARARE – Zimbabwe will soon define the role of indigenous languages in infant education as a way of ensuring their sustained use in the country, a top official has said.
Primary and Secondary Education minister Lazarus Dokora, who officially opened the 2013 edition of the Zimbabwe International Book Fair (ZIBF), whose theme is “Enabling creativity, writing, publishing and reading for Africa’s growth”, said: “When you were learning to tear and assemble Latin, French, Spanish, German etc, you learnt the skills for which your country now calls you to account in the service of the Republic.
“In a small way, my ministry will make its position known in the coming weeks: the role of indigenous languages in infant school.”
The minister, who himself is a published poet, added that literacy must include constitutional and media literacy so that the people understand constitutional provisions as well as question certain discourses we hear and read about.
“This important book fair is taking place after the adoption of a new national Constitution by Zimbabweans for Zimbabweans. Further, the country successfully held its harmonised elections on July 31, 2013.
“It was new to everybody including the participating political formations… Now the new Constitution of Zimbabwe includes under Chapter One, the founding provisions, Article 6, which reads as follows: ‘(i) The following languages, Chewa, Chibarwe, English, Kalanga, Koisan, Nambya, Ndau, Ndebele, Shangani, Shona, sign language, Sotho, Tonga, Tswana, Venda and Xhosa are officially recognised languages of Zimbabwe’.
Dokora added that the Constitution addresses issues of inclusivity, justice, economic empowerment and various citizen rights and obligations and also highlighted the importance of culture in everyday lives.
Giving the example of an organisation that gave sanitary pads at a school assembly without considering the dignity of the same child.
“I ask again: Where is the sense of dignity for that child? At the back of our minds we must never lose sight of the value system we are overtly cultivating among the orphan and vulnerable population in our midst.
“Orphans are not things: they are human too.”
He added that the major thrust of his ministry is deepening the foundation of infant school education.
“This entails enriching the initial formal learning foundations of the four-year-olds (ECDA) and five-year-olds (ECDB) and strengthening teaching and learning at all levels.”
Dokora said media literacy among the general population would strengthen critical analysis and help to address some of the negative attitudes that result in discrimination on grounds such as gender, disability, HIV and Aids.
Earlier chairperson of ZIBFA’s executive board Musaemura Zimunya had applauded funding partners of ZIBF for maintaining support for the organisation.
ZIBF’s traditional funding partners Hivos, in partnership with the Royal Norwegian Embassy, Culture Fund, in partnership with the European Union had pledged to continue supporting ZIBF.
Other organisations that support the book industry are the Norwegian Reproduction Rights Organisation and the Norwegian Copyright Development Association.
Keynote speaker Phyllis Johnson, who co-founded ZIBF with her late husband David Martin traced the path ZIBF has travelled so far. This year’s book fair coincides with ZIBF’s 30th anniversary.