By Judith Sibanda
Lupane, January 27, 2016 – A storm is brewing in Matabeleland North Province over the deployment of non-Ndebele teachers amid claims State agents are terrorising villagers that recently demanded the transfer of a Shona speaking headmistress from a school in Lupane.
Some Lupane villagers last week petitioned the government to transfer Mlamuli Secondary School head, only identified as Miss Bonyongwe saying she did not speak the local language.
The parents alleged that Bonyongwe and some teachers were failing to discharge their duties because of a language barrier.
Parents said in the 2014 public examinations, only four students out of 55 who had sat for O’Levels, managed to pass five or more subjects.
None of them passed English and still parents blamed the poor performance of their children on that the Mlamuli Secondary School teachers did not understand the local language.
The secessionist Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP), which joined the parents during last week’s protests, said it had received reports that Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) operatives were now targeting those behind the petition to remove Bonyongwe.
“MRP has received sad news that CIOs are going around Lupane in the Gumede and Masenyane areas intimidating people over their resolution to sign a petition against Mlamuli Secondary School headmistress Miss M Bonyongwe,” MRP spokesperson Mbonisi Gumbo said on Tuesday.
“It is with great sadness that the Zimbabwe security forces together with the Ministry of Education can have the guts to go against the wishes of the people.”
Gumbo said his party supported the villagers because they believed parents had a constitutional right to reject teachers who had no capacity to teach their children properly.
He said it was insensitive to teach children who were just starting school in languages they did not understand.
“Considering the fact that these pupils or students are at lower levels, we feel this is where the mother language can be predominantly used,” he said.
“It’s not all about academic education only but cultural values as well, hence the emphasis on local teachers.
“According to Zimbabwe’s Constitution, there are 16 official languages, so if Ndebele people demand to have Ndebele teachers, it should not be a crime because it’s also an official language.”
Gumbo alleged there was corruption in the recruitment of teachers at provincial level, saying Ndebele graduates were being disadvantaged.
He said the party would not rest until Bonyongwe was removed from the school and vowed to take the protests to other schools in the region where parents faced similar problems.
Matabeleland North regional education director Boithatelo Mnguni was not reachable for comment on the disturbances at Mlamuli Secondary School.
In 2013, 90 parents in Mangwe District, Matabeleland South held a demonstration against then Makuzeze Primary headmistress Victoria Pasipanodya accusing her of abusing Ndebele speaking teachers.
They were joined by youths from Mthwakazi Youth Leaders Joint Resolution, who are still facing charges of holding illegal demonstrations.
Complaints of non-Ndebele speaking teachers being deployed in Matabeleland schools attracted the ruling Zanu PF’s attention last year and ministers made a commitment to address the matter, but nothing has been done since then.