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Education bill public hearings to reignite language debate

The new Education Amendment Bill of 2019 has proposed that subjects learnt at school must be taught in the language they are going to be examined in despite calls from certain quarters that some subjects should be taught in local indigenous languages.

The Education Amendment Bill seeks to amend the Education Act (Chapter 25:04) with public hearings to gather input into the new legislation set to be held next month.

This comes at a time when there has been uproar mostly in Matabeleland over the deployment of non-Ndebele teachers to the region.

In an interview with CITE, Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Education, Sport, Arts and Culture, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga urged people to acquaint themselves with the bill so their views would be incorporated.

“People must learn and prepare themselves for the public hearings that are going to be held over the Education Amendment Bill,” she said.

“As a committee on education, we are coming to Bulawayo, Matabeleland South and Matabeleland North on 14, 15 and 16 April.”

Misihairabwi-Mushonga said, for instance, people must express views on what they think on the clause that says teachers must teach subjects in a language that learner would be examined on.

“There’s no point in teaching Mathematics in vernacular, counting figure 1-2-3-4 in such a manner and come examination the learner meets something else. The language of instruction taught to a learner must be what they see in an examination,” she said.

The legislator noted that the Education Amendment Act sought to make it clear on what is expected in schools.

“If you recall the teacher and languages issue, the bill must not take away that the infant level is taught in one’s mother language but at any other stage learners should be taught in a language they would be examined in,” she said.

This section of the bill is yet to be discussed in Parliament and Misihairabwi-Mushonga highlighted that is why at the moment legislators were not putting their views as yet, waiting for the public hearings.

“We want the public to tell us what they want from the bill. People should tell us how they perceive the Education Amendment Bill because it must be user-friendly and avoid confusion, especially on the issue of languages taught in schools.

“I understand legal literacy but I don’t want my understanding to be that of the person on the street so they have to understand what the bill says it in simpler terms.

“When we implement the bill we don’t want people coming back to say explain why such is like this, which is why we want to hear from the people. At the end of the day what people want must be incorporated, explained or edited so that it reads well and is implemented accordingly,” she said.

The Education Amendment Bill was published in the Government Gazette on February 15, 2019.

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