Below is a statement issued by Zimsec in response to complaints that the 2013 Grade 7 Ndebele Paper 1 contained inappropriate language.
Esau Shingirai Nhandara
Zimbabwe School Examinations Council
It is alleged that the paper was limited in terms of geography and space. ZIMSEC’s deliberate policy is to set papers that are not limited in terms of geography and space.
The paper covers all the types of candidates envisaged in society, right from the types of language structures and the passages.
In the paper there are three passages, the first passage deals with an urban set up, the second passage deals with a rural set up whereas the last passage is a general one for all the candidates. Therefore, no candidate group was advantaged over the other.
As for the slang referred to, believing that the reporter is referring to a character in the first passage, who is a kombi conductor touting for business.
The fact that these words are in direct speech makes them more relevant to the situation of time, geography and space.
It is the general language meant to typify the general set up at a kombi taxi rank.
The words used by the taxi conductor is the language they use in that sociolinguistic context.
This kombi context is typically found in all areas whether rural or urban since kombis now operate in all areas. It is, however, unfortunate that the reporter took the touting language out of context.
During its development, the paper undergoes several stages of approval by Ndebele language experts from the four regions that teach the subject.
The paper is set by ten experts from Matabeleland South, Matabeleland North, Midlands and Bulawayo.
These experts include college Ndebele lecturers both at Primary and Secondary level who train teachers, education experts from the Curriculum Development Unit (CDU) and practising primary classroom teachers.
These have been doing the job for the past 5-10 years.
Ndebele experts vet and panel proof read the question paper.
With regards the issue of obscene language raised in the paper on question 10.
ZIMSEC’s Ndebele subject specialist who supervises the question paper development, together with ten panel experts concurred that those words are not at all obscene in the Ndebele language.
These are proper terms used in the day to day Ndebele diction.
The terms isifebe, ikhikhitha, umangumba, and ibele lendlela are not at all insulting.
The purpose of the item referred to is meant to assess the use of proper terms to refer to different things.
The objective of the syllabus used to examine candidates at this level is to demonstrate knowledge of amabala ahloniphayo.
These words cannot be examined in isolation, in order for the candidates to identify amabala ahloniphayo, these other words ought to be mentioned.
It is also important to note that some terms which the generality of the people may find to be derogatory are Ndebele words which when used should not be taken out of context.
ZIMSEC has no desire to undermine the integrity and heritage of any language in Zimbabwe.
ZIMSEC endeavours to examine all the sixteen indigenous languages identified in the constitution of Zimbabwe without any prejudice.