Tribalism hits Matabeleland as parents order Shona-speaking headmistress out of Lupane school

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THE issue of the deployment of non-Ndebele speaking teachers in Matabeleland has resurfaced, with parents at a school in Lupane rejecting a Shona-speaking headmistress. Parents told the new school headmistress, identified only as Bonyonga, during a meeting at Mlamuli Secondary School in Lupane district, Matabeleland North on Thursday last week that she was not welcome at the school.

The headmistress was transferred to the school in December last year and officially started work this term at her new station. Officials from the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education were part of the meeting where parents told Bonyonga to leave the school with immediate effect.

The headmistress is, however, still at the school and another meeting has been planned for a later date to decide her fate. Matabeleland North Provincial Education Director Boithatelo Mnguni said the matter was under investigation.

“We received a report and we’re handling it. My feeling is that change wasn’t managed well and maybe the introductions weren’t done properly,” said Mnguni.

She could not immediately state whether or not the headmistress would be transferred but said her office was carrying out an awareness programme in communities for them to understand policy issues. “We’re in the process of educating the community and we will continue doing this until they understand the systems and importance of such policy,” Mnguni said.

Parents who spoke to The Chronicle said they would not allow Bonyonga into the school as long as she “can’t speak IsiNdebele.” “She came last year and was on Thursday being introduced because that was the first parents’ meeting since December last year. She greeted people in English and parents beseeched her to speak in IsiNdebele since it was a parents general meeting where some wouldn’t understand English,” said a parent.

“She couldn’t utter a single word in IsiNdebele but instead asked to be given two weeks to learn the local language and that angered parents.” Bonyonga was transferred from George Silundika Secondary School in Nyamandlovu where she had been a teacher for three years. Parents allegedly argued that she would never learn the local language in two weeks after failing to do so in three years.

“It’s not like we don’t want her personally or just anyone who speaks Shona but she should at least show some respect and learn the language so that she can bond with pupils. It boggles one’s mind how she hopes to learn IsiNdebele in two weeks when she couldn’t do so in three years when she was in Nyamandlovu. We find that disgusting and we’re not going to allow it because our schools are always recording low pass rates because non-Ndebele speaking teachers are always deployed to our schools,” another parent said.

The Village head for Gumede village, Bheki Mathabisa, said he was aware of the issue but could not be drawn into commenting on it saying it was being handled by authorities.

The deployment of non-Ndebele speaking teachers in Matabeleland has in recent years raised the ire of people from the region who blame it for contributing to low pass rates in schools in the region. Last year, seven men were arrested for storming a school in Mangwe District demanding the removal of a headmistress over the issue.

The group, comprising of villagers from Makuzeze area in Mangwe District and some members of the Mthwakazi Joint Youth Resolution, allegedly connived and confronted Makuzeze Primary School head Victoria Pasipanodya before ordering her to vacate the school as she belonged to the Shona tribe.

Unbeknown to the group, Pasipanodya said she was only married to a Shona man, but she was of Ndebele origin and her maiden name was Nyathi. Mqondisi Moyo, 26, Busani Sibanda, 30, Thandolwenkosi Dube, 26, Simanje Sibanda, 32, Lieoto Dube, 36, Ntokozo Denga, 35 and Temba Mvundla, 48 allegedly stormed the school’s offices early last year and hurled insults at the headmistress demanding that she resigns.

Pasipanodya, who has transferred to Kwite Primary School in the same district, said she left the school because of the threats.-Chronicle

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