Indigenous languages in Namibia developed unequally: Makgone

18 Jun 2013 08:50
WINDHOEK, 18 JUN (NAMPA) - Namibia is endowed with multiple languages, but these languages have not been developed equally.
This was the view of the Deputy Minister of Education, Sylvia Makgone, during the three-day National Language Policy Review Conference, which started here on Tuesday and ends on Thursday.
It is aimed at facilitating the finalisation of the draft language policy to enhance access to mother- tongue education, as well as to map out implementation and sensitisation strategies.
?Before independence, more resources were devoted to the development of Afrikaans, German and to some extent English, whereas the development of other languages received meagre resources,? the Deputy Minister said.
She added that the development of indigenous Namibian languages was also not done according to plan, but in a piecemeal manner.
Consequently, some indigenous languages received more attention than others, with the result that some of these languages became marginalised.
?This state of affairs cannot be allowed to continue in an independent Namibia. Therefore, in this regard, the formulation of a sophisticated, more useful language policy is considered to be a long-term solution,? she stressed.
Makgone explained that the finalisation of the draft policy would assign official functions to indigenous Namibian languages in national government, as well as regional and local authorities, which would elevate the status of these languages, and expand their use.
Assessments have demonstrated that learners in bilingual schools in a number of African countries such as Mali, Zambia, Niger, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Nigeria fare better in mathematics, sciences and languages than learners in monolingual institutions.
?Despite these findings, however, as will become clearer from the discussions of the conference, there continues to be great scepticism and confusion among principal actors in education,? said the Deputy Minister.
Many arguments have been raised, such as the existence of multilingual environments, the best way to select the appropriate language of instruction, the costs, as well as the difficulty of training and deploying teachers.
Other arguments include the lack of support materials for indigenous African languages as languages of instruction, and the unfavourable perception that parents and communities have of this approach.
?Currently, there is a language policy in place, but conditions are not favourable for implementing it. There are too many escape clauses built into it, thus contributing to non-observance by public institutions,? she complained.
Makgone further stated that an attempt had been made to revise the current language policy in 2002, leading to a published booklet in January 2003 as a discussion document titled ?Language Policy for Schools in Namibia?.
That booklet was translated into all Namibian languages used in schools to facilitate wider consultations. However, after more than a decade, the policy still remains ?a discussion document?.
The conference, which is a follow-up to the 2011 National Education Conference, has brought together stakeholders from Namibia, as well as experts from neighbouring countries.