Academic journal article NAWA: Journal of Language and Communication

The Forgotten Stories: The Case of Difficulties Encountered by Ndebele Ordinary and Advanced Students Studying Zulu Literature Texts

Academic journal article NAWA: Journal of Language and Communication

The Forgotten Stories: The Case of Difficulties Encountered by Ndebele Ordinary and Advanced Students Studying Zulu Literature Texts

Article excerpt


There are two schools of thought about the history of the Ndebele language. One school of thought claims that Ndebele is a Zulu dialect basing the argument on the fact that the two languages are very closely related. This prompted the inclusion of Zulu textbooks and works of art in the Zimbabwean Ndebele syllabus at both high school and tertiary level of education.

The justification for including Zulu texts was that it was already examinable at South African Junior and Senior certificates as well as Cambridge Syndicate 'O' level. At the time when Ndebele was being introduced as an examinable subject in Zimbabwean education there were feelings, by some, that it had not been developed enough to provide all the needed literature. At a Conference held at the University College (now University of Zimbabwe) in 1953 and at Bulawayo African Secondary School (now Mpopoma) in 1964, the Ministry of Education categorically stated that Ndebele was to be taught at secondary school level instead of Zulu. However, it was directed that Zulu would be taught through literature. In terms of literature, it was decided that there would be two (2) Ndebele to one (1) Zulu text (Teacher in New Africa, 1968).

Part of the decision to bring in Zulu literary texts into Ndebele literature in Zimbabwe could have been to foster integration aimed at cultural authentication (McNab, 1989). Since time immemorial, the Zimbabwean Ndebele clan has always affirmed its traditional ties with the popular Zulu clan in South Africa. It would seem education was being used to foster these traditional ties.

The second school of thought claims that Ndebele and Zulu are autonomous languages. They are, however, thought of as Nguni dialects although there is no such language called the Nguni language. The talked about Nguni dialects, according to this school of thought are; Zulu, Ndebele, Xhosa and Swati. In fact, these so called dialects remain distinctive languages in their own rights. There are differences in these languages in terms of their vocabulary and proverbs. The researchers ascribe to the second school of thought and think that Ndebele and Zulu are distinctive languages. The level of intelligibility is very low resulting in Zimbabwean Ndebele students finding Zulu texts not very accessible.

Research objectives

The objectives for this research were to:

1. compare Zulu vocabulary from prescribed Zulu texts to Ndebele vocabulary

2. examine similarities and differences between Zulu and Ndebele proverbs

3. identify problematic vocabulary from Zulu literature texts that pause difficulties to Ndebele readers

4. highlight the extent of mutual intelligibility between Zulu and Ndebele.

Conceptual framework

One can note that all available recent research clearly states that quality and recent education must be provided in a familiar language to ensure learning, in particular for primary and secondary education (Solheim, 2006). This underlines the importance of language in the educational process, and as a means of preserving the people's culture (Makunde, 2005). This, unfortunately, makes a serious comment on the inclusion of Zulu literature in the teaching of 'O' and 'A' level Ndebele literature in Zimbabwe.

The history of Zulu literature in Zimbabwe dates back to the migration of the Zimbabwean Ndebele clan from South Africa into Zimbabwe under the leadership of Mzilikazi. This group put distance between itself and the parent group or groups known as the Nguni. Nguni refers to a group of Southern Bantu languages belonging to Zone 40 (Guthrie, 1970). The languages that make up the Nguni are: Zulu, Swati, Xhosa, South African Ndebele and Zimbabwean Ndebele. It is interesting to note that, apart from the Zimbabwean Ndebele, the rest are spoken in South Africa. The fact that these Nguni languages do not have a common harmonized orthography (Hadebe, in Brock-Utne and Skattum, 2009) means that their level of intelligibility is low especially for the Zimbabwean Ndebele that had been separated from the rest by both history and distance. …

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