Zimbabwe’s minister of primary and secondary education, Dr Lazarus Dokora has revealed the country will introduce foreign languages in schools, as part of major changes to the education curriculum.
Dokora was quoted by local reports telling delegates that, “The ministry is going to introduce foreign languages in the new curriculum which include French, Swahili, Chinese and Portuguese in schools”.
Since 2014, the ministry has been working on a new curriculum, which culminated in the development of a Zero Draft Curriculum Framework for Primary and Secondary Education to inform learning and teaching from 2015 to 2022.
The Cabinet approved the new framework in September last year, paving way for the implementation of a raft of changes.
Some of the major changes for the different education levels include the approval of indigenous language as the medium of instruction in infant school and early childhood learning. In a ministerial statement, minister Dokora said the foreign languages: French, Swahili, Chinese, Portuguese will be offered to pupils in secondary schools.
The first phase of the implementation and assessment started early this year and will be followed by phase two, which involves teacher capacity building.
Swahili is a major language on the continent and it is the most widely spoken African language, with an estimated 60-150 million speakers.
With close to a billion natives speakers, Mandarin which has the most native speakers than any other language has been proposed as a foreign language to be taught in schools in various countries across the continent.
Contestations on teaching Mandarin
While the proposal to teach Swahili has not been greeted with much contestations, teaching Mandarin has often elicited strong objections. There are people who view the introduction of Mandarin in public schools as a welcome and positive step, which can given African students and citizens a competitive edge while also strengthening cultural and economic ties with China. However, there are others who see it as one of the worst forms of imperialism.
Last year, a proposal by the South Africa’s education ministry to allow for Mandarin to be taught in schools was met with strong criticism from the teachers’ union, which argued it symbolised a new form of cultural imperialism and colonisation, a view which was echoed on various social media platforms.