The Deputy Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Prof Paul Mavhima will this week lead a delegation to assess the problem of deployment of non-Ndebele speaking teachers in Matabeleland.
The deputy minister said he was in agreement with people of Matabeleland that Shona-speaking teachers and other non-Ndebele speaking teachers should not teach in Bulawayo and other cities/towns in Matabeleland where Ndebele is the prime spoken language.
The increasing number of non-Ndebele speaking teachers in Matabeleland has become a thorny issue, with parents, educationalists and politicians blaming the development for the low pass rates in the region.
Those who have expressed disquiet over the matter have dismissed claims that the issue could be tribal saying it is not about one being Ndebele, but the need for the teacher to understand a local language, be it Tonga, Kalanga, Nambya, Xhosa or any other.
Prof Mavhima said his delegation will be in Matabeleland South province this week in a bid to get the real picture on the ground. He said Senior Minister of State, Ambassador Simon Khaya Moyo had raised the issue following complaints from parents in the region.
"The issue has been raised at the highest level. Senior Minister Simon Khaya Moyo brought it up and asked the Ministry to intervene," Prof Mavhima said on Friday in Victoria Falls. He said the ministry agreed as a matter of principle that pupils should be taught and introduced to education by a person who is proficient in their language.
"We are in agreement with those who have raised the issue hence our decision to assess the situation on the ground. I will be visiting Matabeleland South province schools next week," said Prof Mavhima.
He said any intervention the government would make would be knowledge based.
"We have to be flexible as a ministry and that is part of my visit to the province where we will start in Beitbridge. We will visit schools, communities and wind up by visiting administrators in Gwanda," he said.
The deputy minister said from Matabeleland South, his delegation will visit Bulawayo, Matabeleland North and some parts of the Midlands province.
He said to address the problem, there might be a need to move non-Ndebele speaking teachers to other regions as well as train more Ndebele-speaking teachers.
"We would want to deploy people where they are effective. The other solution will be to train more Ndebele-speaking teachers but this will take about three years. A permanent solution is to build more teacher training colleges in the region which again will take some time," said Prof Mavhima.
He, however, said it was important for people to appreciate challenges facing the education sector which experienced an exodus of teachers seeking greener pastures in neighbouring countries such as South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. Prof Mavhima said the worst affected were the three provinces of Matabeleland and the Midlands.