The experiences of teachers on the use of Shangani as the medium of instruction at three selected Chiredzi District schools in Zimbabwe.
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The call for the use of the mother tongue in the education of children especially those at the elementary level has been a contentious issue since the 1953 UNESCO declaration on the use of the mother tongue as the medium of instruction. Several African governments are signatories to various declarations which advocate for MTE and Zimbabwe has come up with legislations on languages through the 2006 Education Amendment Act and the 2013 Constitution. However, I noted that no study so far has endeavoured to look into the experiences of teachers using African indigenous languages in general as mediums of instruction in Zimbabwe yet no change in the deployment system has been noted. The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of teachers using Shangani as the medium of instruction at three selected Chiredzi District schools in Masvingo province of Zimbabwe. The study aimed at answering three research questions: 1. What are the experiences of teachers on the use of Shangani as the medium of instruction from three selected Chiredzi District Schools? 2. How are teachers affected by their experiences of teaching through the Shangani medium in three selected Chiredzi District Schools? 3. Why do teachers experience the use of Shangani as medium of instruction in Chiredzi District Schools the way they do? The study was conducted at three predominantly Shangani schools in Chiredzi District. 15 elementary level teachers at the three schools participated in the study. The study is a qualitative case study informed by the interpretivist paradigm. Observation, semi-structured and focus group interviews were used for data gathering. The study uses qualitative methods for data analysis. The study was informed by Phillipson’s Theory of Linguistic Imperialism as well as Gramsci’s Hegemony Theory. Six major themes emerged from the findings. The first theme; challenges facing Shona speaking teachers in the implementation of Shangani medium of instruction, indicates the Shona speaking teachers in the three schools lack proficiency in the Shangani Language. As a result they make mistakes when speaking the Shangani language which in turn causes pupils to laugh at them leading to their humiliation. The second one is on the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education’s (MOPSE) lack of commitment towards the use of Shangani as the Medium of Instruction, revealing that teachers were not trained in Shangani and that MOPSE is not even making a follow up to the policy to ensure its implementation. The third theme is on the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education’s lack of commitment towards the use of Shangani as the MOI where findings reveal that colleges in the province have not yet started training teachers for the use of Shangani as the MOI. The fourth one is on shortage of teaching resources, which shows that the textbooks for the different content areas are still in the English Language, meaning that teachers have to translate content from English to Shangani and back to English because pupils are still examined in English. The fifth theme; the advantages of being proficient in Shangani, shows that the Shangani speaking teachers are better placed to implement the policy on the use of Shangani as the MOI as they can meaningfully communicate with their learners using the language. The sixth theme on negative attitudes of some administrators on the use of Shangani as MOI shows that these are impeding the implementation of the policy as teachers get discouraged from using Shangani by the negative comments that come especially from the administrators. Findings of this study are indicative of the fact that, the policy on the use of Shangani as the MOI is minimally implemented in the three schools; it is still a word of mouth owing to a variety of challenges. From these findings I concluded that, lack of political will to support Mother Tongue Education policies largely contributes to failure of such policies. The major recommendation is that African governments should begin to appreciate the diversity in humanity and come up with feasible policies that would see minority language children receiving instruction in their mother tongues especially at the elementary level.