FRANCISTOWN: Secretary general of the Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU), Tobokani Rari has said government is not ready to introduce mother tongue languages as the medium of instruction in public primary schools next January.
Rari’s observation contradicts Ministry of Basic Education senior officials, who just last week maintained that government will introduce mother tongue languages as the medium of instruction in selected primary schools in January, at a Ntlo Ya Dikgosi briefing.
He said while the implementation of the use of the mother tongue language as the medium of instruction would be a welcome development, BOSETU is worried that government has not prepared for the process and as such is not ready for the implementation of the initiative set for beginning of next year.
“Mother tongue instruction involves teaching of students in their mother tongue, and this in no doubt involves strong research/inquiry as to the current distribution of teachers to their tribe’s area for the purposes of them teaching in their tribe’s language. As far as we know as critical stakeholders, this process has not been done thus far, but it is key to the introduction of mother tongue in schools,” Rari told The Monitor via telephone.
Rari noted that BOSETU has reservations that proper research will be carried out owing to the fact that there are only a few months left to the timeline of commencement of the initiative.
He added, the other key elementary work such as the availing of relevant textbooks has not been done, but is also critical to the introduction of mother tongue as a medium of instruction in schools.
“If teaching will merely be done using mother tongue without relevant textbooks (translated to respective [mother tongue] languages) aligned to the curriculum, it will be insufficient to us.
With only about five months left to proposed timeline of commencement of the use of
Rari explained that in order for mother tongue languages to be effectively introduced in schools, teachers would also have to be sent for refresher courses to prepare them to adjust to the anticipated changes of the teaching environment.
He doubts that with a few months remaining before next January the ministry will be able to send teachers for adequate refresher courses. “If the initiative is launched hastily without addressing the concerns we have raised it will not be a success,” he warned.
During his campaign seeking re-election for the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) ahead of the 2019 General Election, President Mokgweetsi Masisi had said his government would prioritise the introduction of mother tongue as the medium of instruction in public primary schools.
Prior to that, the BDP-led government constantly shunned calls to introduce mother tongue as a medium of instruction in local schools.
Amongst others, the party said the move would not be entirely practical, as in order to initiate it, there would be need to strongly build the competence of teachers in order for them to adjust to the changes (teaching learners using their first language).
Furthermore, the party cited lack of resources to overhaul the education policy and re-train teachers in order for them to effectively teach learners in their mother tongue.
Opposition parties and trade unions have often argued that the imposition of Setswana as the only medium of instruction in primary schools has contributed significantly to the high level of dropouts and failure amongst non-Setswana speaking children.