Academic journal article Ife Psychologia

Battling against Marginalisation: Towards the Elevation of Indigenous Languages in Zimbabwe

Academic journal article Ife Psychologia

Battling against Marginalisation: Towards the Elevation of Indigenous Languages in Zimbabwe

Article excerpt

The African continent of the 21st century faces a major challenge of failing to use its indigenous languages and if such a scenario is not seriously looked at would lead to an extinction of some of them. This paper questions the rationale of having Zimbabwean local languages and in particular, Shona and Ndebele, being marginalised in the curriculum, media and even in the political sphere many years after the attainment of independence. The processes of decolonisation and nation building that Africa is engaged in should also include the use and promotion of indigenous languages that are spoken by the majority of the people in African countries to official status; and also enabling them to compete for space in politics and economics not only as forms of identity but as the language of business and new information and communication technologies. The study adopts a qualitative methodology and a case study design to generate data to address the questions which will guide it. The purposively sampled sample was drawn from lecturers and students from Zimbabwe Open University and Great Zimbabwe University, Department of Languages. It is believed that lecturers and students from these departments will have greater insight into the challenges and possibly future intervention strategies of elevating indigenous languages. Interviews will be used to gather data for they are highly regarded as one of the best ways to generate rich and meaningful data (Kitchin and Tate, 2000). Data gathered will be content analysed using themes that would have emerged from the data. It is hoped the paper will bring to the fore the various challenges that pose a threat to indigenous languages and finally emerge with some possible intervention strategies that could help salvage indigenous languages from extinction. The study is informed by afrocentrism theory which calls for all African phenomena, activities and way of life to be looked at and be given meaning from the standpoint and worldview of Africans.

At a time when there is a drive among African countries to fight imperialism at various levels most countries, Zimbabwe included still use the former coloniser's language as medium of instruction, language of business and information and communication technology. In 1982 Ministers of Education in Africa met in Harare, Zimbabwe to discuss the use of African languages as languages of education. They stressed that there was an urgent and pressing need for the use of African languages as languages of education. The Ministers were not only concerned about retaining African languages in order to preserve culture but they also used educational arguments. To them Language was more than culture (Brock- Utne 2005, 2007). The meeting was convened almost over a quarter of a century ago and up to now nothing has been done in that regard. In Zimbabwe local languages and in particular, Shona and Ndebele are still marginalised many years after the attainment of independence and after the meeting of Education ministers which Harare hosted. Even the teaching of local languages like Shona and Ndebele in most of Zimbabwe's universities with the exception of Great Zimbabwe is still done in English. Such an approach is a manifestation of the continuation of imperial domination in sovereign countries. Since African states are fighting imperialism at various levels, this struggle must be extended to include even the teaching and promotion of local languages so that they will be accorded high status like English. The processes of decolonisation and nation building that Africa is engaged in should also include the use and teaching (in the local medium) of indigenous languages that are spoken by the majority of the people in African countries. The use of local languages in various sectors, including education, is part of the empowerment that is essential for national development.

The Language situation in Zimbabwe

As we have argued elsewhere the language situation in Zimbabwe is less complex than in other parts of Africa (Gudhlanga, 2005). …

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