I FOUND the Press statement by Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (Zimsec) director Esau Nhandara provocative and very annoying.
He was defending his mischievous Grade 7 Ndebele Paper 1, whose choice of words has caused an outcry from custodians of the Ndebele language, culture and heritage.
He is accusing reporters of lifting the words out of context. It is not the context that is the matter director, but the social setting.
Nhandara should be fired immediately for letting his so-called Ndebele experts verbally abuse children because the little ones cannot defend themselves.
We now live in a new Zimbabwe with a clear guiding Constitution on such matters.
Our Constitution, since Nhandara refers to it in his statement, is clear on such matters with regards to children, that the State must take appropriate measures to ensure that no one shall; “place at risk the children’s well-being, education, physical or mental health or spiritual, moral or social development”.
It goes on to say children must be protected from maltreatment, neglect or any form of abuse and should have access to appropriate education and training.
I am not making this up; it is there in the Constitution.
This chapter and section resonates well with the Ndebele cultural values of educating and bringing up children, the same values that Nhandara is letting his experts disrespect by offering these children inappropriate examination material.
While I am still on the Constitution, let me point out that it is clear in our culture; “all institutions and agencies of government at every level must promote and preserve cultural values and practices which enhance the dignity, well being and equality of Zimbabweans”.
Nhandara and his experts at Zimsec as a government agency, have failed to promote correctly and preserve the Ndebele cultural values — you don’t give certain Ndebele words to certain age groups in certain social settings because the words imply vulgar and obscene activities and practice not suitable to that age group.
It is not about the word being right or wrong — as we may be aware that Ndebele language has no right or wrong words — but has to do importantly with the expression of action and practice carried by the word.
Can Nhandara and his experts describe to the country in detail the action and practice conveyed and expressed by the words isifebe, ikhikhitha, umangumba and tell us that the moral values and practice conveyed by these words are excellent for 12-year-olds? Nhandara should be told in no uncertain terms that they are not.
Again the Constitution is very clear that “all institutions and agencies of the government at every level must take measures to ensure due respect for the dignity of traditional institutions”.
The Ndebele language and its cultural values is the first traditional institution of its people and Nhandara has failed to ensure due respect for its dignity just because he thinks he is director and employs 10 Ndebele experts who teach this language at various institutions of learning.
We don’t care about Nhandara being a director just as much as we don’t care about the so called experts, but we do care about all of them discharging their responsibility as guided by our Constitution chapter for chapter and section for section.
It is unfortunate for the likes of Nhandara who still live in the old Zimbabwe where puppies would lead and examine piglets in the piglet’s language and that would pass for a reward and promotion.
It is not anymore under the new Constitution that has brought us to a new Zimbabwe.
Cultural institutions and values must be given due respect by all, particularly those in leadership of government institutions and agencies.
If you don’t or fail like Nhandara then it is the responsibility of us as citizens with the help of the media to hold who ever accountable.
No one is above our Constitution except God!
Let me move away from the Constitution and how Nhandara has violated both the Ndebele children and the Ndebele language and values to a more professional discussion.
Why would a sensible, responsible, professional expert choose the touting language and kombi rank to examine our 12-year-old Ndebele children?
What are you implying about Ndebele children and Ndebele society? Why you did not choose some other professional business language and setting?
If you wanted to examine them on the public transport sector why did you not choose the airport and the language of an airpersonnel or the luxury bus travel centres and the language of their conductors?
To Nhandara and his experts, Ndebele children are not to be exposed to language of such professional public service organisations like a kombi, taxi rank despite the fact that the majority of adult people, let alone children, use these services.
They do not like or appreciate the touting language used and the general conduct of the majority of characters who provide this service.
Most of the passengers use these ranks not out of choice but out of desperation, yet that is what the Nhandara gang as finds ideal passages and characters to bring to the classroom to use to inspire the Ndebele children.
To demonstrate the knowledge of amabala ahloniphayo of a 12-year-old candidate the Ndebele dictionary, Isichazamazwi SesiNdebele has 556 pages of words to select from and the best you people could find and select are isifebe, ikhikhitha umangumba and so on to help the children identify amabala ahloniphayo!
Come on Nhandara don’t play fejafeja with our minds and cultural heritage.
There are so many other words that could have been found in the dictionary to achieve the same objective and suitable for the age group.
Ujwayela abantwabethu kubi Esau Shingirai Nhandara.
The boys ekasi would say in the language you want to bring to the classroom and say it is in daily jargon usijwayela amasimba Esau!
But such language is not good language in accordance with Ndebele cultural values and should be used only at certain social settings by a certain age group — let alone bringing it to the classroom to examine young children!
The proper use of Ndebele words and language is guided primary by age and social settings.
Allowing certain words to cross these two lines constitutes a cultural offence.
Just as much as Nhandara and the experts urinate on a daily basis it is not right for them to urinate in the flower pot at the veranda of their houses in the presence of their children and visitors and then issue a Press statement that it’s fine because people urinate on day to day basis and the 10 experts have said it’s fine.
No it’s not fine in the Ndebele culture and we want that culture to be given due respect.
Lastly Nhandara must be told that he is the director of Zimsec and not the director of the Ndebele language, culture and heritage.
The Ndebele people are. So when they raise concerns about these matters of our culture and heritage just don’t respond with a shallow Press statement.
You are supposed to apologise to the Ndebele speaking people and ask them how they can assist your team improve where your experts have fallen short.
A lot of wrong things are being taught in our schools because in most cases the people we call educated experts have themselves been taught by wrong teachers who have taught them wrong things when it comes to other people’s cultural heritage.
It is one of the major reasons why the whole of our education system needs revisiting.
Nhandara says in the statement Zimsec endeavours to examine all the 16 indigenous languages identified in the Constitution of Zimbabwe without any prejudice, but I am afraid Zimsec has just done so with this Ndebele Paper 1, with heavy prejudice.
If this Zimsec director is still employed by this institution by end of the month then his boss or the minister responsible must be held accountable.
Such disrespect of a people’s cultural values and gross abuse of children cannot go unpunished.