Zimbabwe plan to make Chinese, French, Kiswahili and Portuguese mandatory stirs debate

Expanded foreign language requirement however mocked by leading educator

ZIMBABWE’S decision to make four foreign languages mandatory for pupils in state schools drew derision Monday from a senior educator who described the move as a “pipedream.”

Zimbabwe’s state-controled media announced plans to make Chinese, French, Kiswahili and Portuguese compulsory as part of a shake-up of the national curriculum that also imposes new agricultural studies.

“To say we want to introduce all these languages to an already bloated school curriculum is a pipedream,” David Dzatsunga, a veteran teacher trainer and head of the College Lecturers’ Association (COLAZ), told AFP.

He also asked how such an ambitious plan can be applied in a nation scrambling to finance education programmes already in place.

“Where is the funding going to come from considering that the government is already struggling to pay teachers for the current subjects?” asked Dzatsunga.

“It’s just hallucinating. Do we have enough teachers to teach those languages?”

Zimbabwe has three official languages, Shona, Ndebele and English, which is traditionally used in business, as well as 13 minority languages.

Chinese is increasingly seen as important in Africa, where China has become a major investor.

The planned changes come as the government struggles to pay its civil servants, and has resorted to staggering paydays while collecting taxes to fund salaries.

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