Grade 7 Ndebele exam protests spill into SA

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JOHANNESBURG — A small group of South Africa-based Zimbabweans last Thursday staged a peaceful demonstration outside the Zimbabwe Embassy in Johannesburg expressing dismay over this year’s Grade 7 Ndebele examination paper which they say contained derogatory language not fit for 12-year-old children.

At the Zimbabwe Embassy, the group handed a petition to ambassador Phelekezela Mphoko and requested him to convey their anger to the Education ministry in Zimbabwe. The protesters demanded the immediate resignation of senior Zimbabwe School Examination Council (Zimsec) officials for allowing examiners to set a paper that violated some Ndebele cultural norms.

The march took place at a time when Zimsec had defended the paper that contains foul language describing commercial sex workers.

The protesters, who included members of Inqama, a cultural advocacy group, Pure Ndebeles, a group of language activists, and ordinary residents of Matabeleland region, rejected Zimsec’s exam justification and demanded thorough investigations into the matter.

They said the 2013 Grade 7 Ndebele examination was a cultural disgrace.

One of the protesters Sanelisiwe Mahlangu, originally from Godlwayo area in Filabusi, Matabeleland South province, said they want immediate answers from Zimsec.

“The words that are used there are not used in the Ndebele culture by kids. That is the problem. Some of those words, yes, they are Ndebele words, but they are not supposed to be exposed to kids because they are very indecent and vulgar,” Mahlangu said.

Nkosinathi Nyathi a member of a cultural group calling itself Inqama, said they want an assurance from Zimsec and the government that the incident will never happen again.

“We are against the use of Ndebele in a wrong context in examination papers especially for primary schoolchildren. They are too young, they are too innocent for those words.

“In our culture we don’t just say such things,” Nyathi said.

Simanga Moyo, who hails from Bulawayo, said the improper language in the paper undermines all that the Ndebele people stand for.

—VOA