Matabeleland Protests Over Non-Ndebele Teachers Intensify

By Judith Sibanda

 Lupane, February 02, 2016 – PROTESTS over the deployment non-Ndebele speaking teachers in Matabeleland has intensified with a Gowanda-based community activist petitioning the government to investigate the problem critics blame for poor pass rates in the region.

Bekezela Maduma Fuzwayo, a prominent activist on Monday delivered his petition to the Gwanda district education offices demanding answers on the continued deployment of non-Ndebele speaking teachers in Matabeleland South.

He also wanted to know why the government continued to deploy unqualified teachers in the region yet there were many unemployed graduates from the two provinces.

Fuzwayo said the deployment of teachers from other provinces was to blame for poor pass rates in schools around Matabeleland South.

His petition came hard on the heels of protests by Lupane villagers over the deployment of non-Ndebele speaking teachers in the district.

A fortnight ago, parents with children at Mlamuli Secondary School demanded the removal of the headmistress only identified as Ms Bonyongwe who they said could not speak the local language.

The school has a perennially low pass rate and parents blame this on teachers who cannot speak the local language. In 2014, only five out of 55 O’Level candidates at the school passed their examinations.

Lupane villagers also now want some schools heads and teachers at Gumede, Masenyane, Sibambene and Jibajiba transferred because they cannot speak the local language.

Fuzwayo said the local community was losing patience over the continued deployment of teachers from outside the region as they did not speak the local language or understand the culture.

“Every time when this concern is raised we always get an excuse, not reason, that Gwanda is fed with these teachers because there are no readily available qualified teachers of Gwanda orientation to fill the vacancies available,” he wrote in the letter.

“Surprisingly after every engagement and deployment of teachers’ by your Ministry with the help of the Public Service Commission, as community leaders, we always get complaints from our very own Gwanda children with qualifications claiming to have been left out of the system.”

Fuzwayo said they wanted the government to investigate the problem and address it as a matter of urgency.

“(We ask you to) investigate the number of teachers who cannot speak the language of the local community serving in the district contrary to your  ministry’s employment guidelines that priority should be given to teachers conversant with the language and the culture of that area and why the guidelines were deliberately ignored in the first place,” he said.

“(We also want) thorough investigations into the corruption allegations raised against those in charge of recruiting and deployment of the teachers into the district.

“Investigate and if true why and how there maybe few or no teachers with a Gwanda background qualified to teach in our schools yet we have a teachers’ training college, which is meant to have a bias towards producing teachers suited to the requirements of the region.”

Meanwhile, Primary and Secondary Education minister Lazuras Dokora and Matabeleland North Provincial minister Cain Mathema on Monday refused to comment on the disturbances at Lupane schools over the language issue.

Dokora demanded to be addressed in Shona before abruptly terminating the call while Mathema said he does not speak to the independent media.

Lupane parents have now teamed up with the secessionist Mthwakazi Republic Party to fight their cause.

They accuse Central Intelligence Organisation operatives of trying to intimidating them to stop the protests against Bonyongwe.

A meeting was held at Mlamuli Secondary School where Education ministry officials reportedly tried to force the parents to accommodate the headmistress without success.

Matebeleland North provincial education director Boithatelo Mnguni told the Chronicle newspaper the matter was still under investigation.

We received a report and we are handling it. My feeling is that change wasn’t managed well and maybe the introductions weren’t done properly,” said Mnguni.

She could not however say if the head school be replaced but said they were carrying out awareness programmes to make the communities aware of policy issues.

“We are in the process of educating the community and we will continue doing this until they understand the systems and importance of such policy,” Mnguni said.