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Copyright © 2007
M. S. Thirumalai
The Use of Setswana as a Medium of Instruction,
A Study of Botswana Linguistic Situation
Koketso Jeremiah, Ph.D.
A Core Subject and A National Language:
Is It Not A Negation Of Affirmative Action?
This paper examines the use of Setswana as a medium of instruction and as a core subject in primary schools, as a core subject and a medium of instruction in junior and senior secondary schools in Botswana, and as a national language. It argues that when Setswana is used as a medium of instruction and as a core subject in primary schools, students whose mother tongue is not Setswana are academically and culturally disadvantaged, and when it is used as a medium of instruction and as a core subject in junior and senior secondary schools, non-native Setswana students are also academically and culturally disadvantaged. It further argues that when Setswana is used as a national language, non-native Setswana speakers are disadvantaged in other spheres of life, for example, in employment. It gives examples of language policies that Botswana can adopt to solve the problems posed by its current language policy.
Key concepts: Affirmative Action, national language, official language, core subject, medium of instruction, Swahili/Kiswahili, Dutchification, sustainable development.
This paper is divided into several sections and these are: Affirmative Action Defined, then Ethnic Composition of Botswana's Population, Setswana in the School Curriculum, Botswana's Language Policy, Manifestation of negation of Affirmative Action in the Curriculum, Threat of language death and cultures of minority groups in Botswana, Lessons from elsewhere on the solutions and problems facing Botswana in bringing about Affirmative Action to Language related problems, Theories of Ethnic/Inequality and Language diversity, Affirmative Action worldwide, and Conclusion.
Botswana became self-governing in 1965 and attained independence on 30th September 1966. Before independence Botswana was a British Protectorate for 80 years. Botswana is a non-racial country. All citizens have freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of association. All citizens have equal rights. All these rights and freedoms are enshrined in the Constitution of Botswana (National Development Plan 9 2003/4-2008/9).
Botswana is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. It covers an area of 582 000 square kilometres by size. It is almost the same size as Kenya and France. Botswana is surrounded by several countries: Zimbabwe to the north-east, South Africa to the south and east, Namibia to the west, and Zambia to the north (National Development Plan 9 2003/4 - 2008/9).
Botswana has a population of 1 680 863. The average population density was 2 persons per square kilometre in 1991. It has since increased to 3 persons per square kilometre in 2001.The largest population densities are concentrated in the cities of Gaborone and Francistown. These two cities have densities in excess of 1000 persons per square kilometre (National Development Plan 9 2003/4 - 2008/9).
When Botswana became independent, agriculture was the main sector that contributed to the livelihood of Batswana, and to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The economy depended mainly on beef export earnings. Communication and infrastructure were poorly developed. The only exception was the railway line. Government depended mainly on foreign aid to undertake some development projects (National Development Plan 9 2003/4 - 2008/9).
With the discovery of minerals, especially diamonds, Botswana underwent remarkable transformation, especially the social and economic aspects. Mining dominated the economy since the mid 1970s. In 1983/4 the mining sector contributed 52.6% to the GDP. By 2003 the contribution of the mining sector dropped to 36.5%. This is an indication that the country is diversifying its economy. Revenue from the mining sector and other sectors is being used to fund educational projects (National Development Plan 9 2003/4 - 2008/9).
Affirmative Action Defined
"Affirmative Action means positive steps taken to increase the representation of women and minorities in areas of employment, education, and business from which they have been historically excluded (http://plato.stanford.ed/entries/affirmative-action//, accessed 29 January 2008, 1).The purpose of Affirmative Action policies is to correct the effects of past and current discrimination and to encourage institutions, for example, universities, hospitals the police service, and so forth, to have employees or students population that represents the diversity of a nation's population's ethnic composition in numeric or proportionate terms.
Ethnic Composition of Botswana's Population
The population of Botswana consists of a variety of ethnic groups which belong to two categories: Batswana and non-Batswana.
Batswana groups include: Batlokwa, Bangwaketse, Batawana, Bangwato, Bakwena, Balete, Barolong and Bakgatla (Tlou and Campbell 1997). These groups are usually referred to as the principal or majority groups.
Non-Batswana groups include: Batwapong, Babirwa, Bakalanga, Ovambanderu, Amandebele, and Balozi (Tlou and Campbell 1997), Bangologa, Baherero, Bakgalagadi, Basarwa, Bahurutshe, Basubiya, Bayeyi, and Bambukushu (The Botswana Society 1994). Non-Batswana groups are usually referred to as minority groups.
Setswana in the School Curriculum
In the primary school curriculum, at lower primary (Standard 1-4), Setswana is a core subject together with Mathematics and English. (A core subject is a subject of study that is compulsory to all students or pupils: all pupils or students are required to take it). Non-core subjects are Environmental Science, Cultural Studies, and Creative and Performing Arts, and Cultural Studies. At upper primary (Standard 5-7), Setswana is a core subject together with Mathematics, English, Science, and Social Studies. Non-core subjects are Agriculture, Creative and Performing Arts, and Religious and Moral Education (http://www.moe.gov.bw/cde.index/html accessed 2 March 2008; Report of the National Commission on Education 1993).
In all these cases, Setswana is, in addition to being a core subject, used as a medium of instruction in teaching it as a core subject. All Batswana students are required to take it, including those Batswana students whose mother tongue is not Setswana. They are also assessed in the same way.
In this paper, Batswana means citizens of Botswana regardless of whether you are a native Setswana speaker or not; whether Setswana is your mother tongue or not.
The Report of the National Commission (RNCE)
The position of the Report of the National Commission (RNCE) on with regard to medium of instruction is that Setswana should be a medium of instruction from Standard 1 to 4 and that the switch to English as a medium of instruction should take place from Standard 5 till Standard 7 (RNCE 1993). ('Medium of instruction is the language that is used in teaching. It may or may not be the official language of the territory') (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medium_of_instruction accessed 29 January 2008, 1).
At junior secondary school level, Setswana is a core subject together with Agriculture, English, Integrated Science, Mathematics, and Social Studies. Non-core subjects (or optional) are Art, Business Studies, Design and Technology, Home Economics, Religious Education, Computer Awareness, Music, Physical Education and Moral Education (http://www.moe.gov.bw/cde/index.html accessed 2 March 2008). At this level, Setswana is taught using Setswana as a medium of instruction.
At senior secondary school level, Setswana is taught as a core subject together with English Language, Mathematics, and Science (Science has a variety of combinations, which could be pure sciences, that is, Physics, Biology, and Chemistry; separate science, that is, Double and Single).
Optional subjects are Geography, History, Religious Education, Social Studies, Literature in English, Development Studies, and Guidance and Counseling. These optional subjects are optional within the humanities block.
The other category of optional subjects is outside the humanities block, and these include: Agriculture, Design and Technology, Art, Food and Nutrition, Fashion and Fabrics, Home Management, Accounts, Commerce, Business Studies, Physical Education, Statistics, and Additional Mathematics (http://www.moe.gov.bw/cde/index.html). At this level, Setswana is taught using Setswana as a medium of instruction.
This is only the beginning part of the article. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE IN PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.
A Study of Auxiliaries in the Old and the Middle Tamil | Content Analysis of "Disability Communication" in the Daily Newspaper DNA (Daily News Analysis) - A Short-term Study Report | Authority: What Is It? | The Trading Community in Early Tamil Society Up To 900 AD | The Use of Setswana as a Medium of Instruction, A Core Subject and A National Language: Is It Not A Negation Of Affirmative Action? A Study of Botswana Linguistic Situation | The Auxiliary Verb POO in Tamil and Telugu | A Study of Idiomatic Expressions in Lurish and Persian | A Survey of Factors Contributing to Language Change in English With Special Reference to Lexical Change | Sarojini Naidu as a Nature Poet | HOME PAGE of November 2008 Issue | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR
Koketso Jeremiah, Ph.D.
Department of Languages & Social Sciences Education
University of Botswana
P.O. Box 404594
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