Botswana: Language: genuine or token?

Don Osborn dzo at
Fri Oct 24 01:59:28 UTC 2008

There was also a report in Mmegi on the International Year of Languages and
the event in Francistown:

"Languages are part of cultural heritage - Kokorwe" 
(or )

> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-lgpolicy-list at [mailto:owner-lgpolicy-
> list at] On Behalf Of Harold Schiffman
> Sent: Thursday, October 23, 2008 4:41 PM
> To: lp
> Subject: Botswana: Language: genuine or token?
> Language: genuine or token?
> The International Day Of Languages has come and gone. It was this year
> celebrated in Francistown.  The city was perhaps the right location for
> such an event given that this is where one of the most widely spoken
> minority languages, Ikalanga, is spoken. In the lead-up to the day, RB1
> produced jingles which, not surprisingly, featured a line or two of
> some of these minority languages. They were interesting jingles, though
> they ultimately showed the cynicism with which the mainstream of
> Botswana society views serious issues like the languages of the vast
> majority of our people.
> The mainstream, in this case represented by RB1, shows interest in
> languages as an exercise in exoticism or subjects of curiosity for
> their own exoticness and not serious matters that require attention by
> way of national policy development. These languages, as if they are not
> an ingrained part of our national make-up, have been relegated to an
> occasional radio jingle, or an advert.
> On that day, Minister Gladys Kokorwe made a speech in which she
> indicated that government is in the process of considering inclusion of
> these languages in our education system.
> Kokorwe further celebrated the efforts of non-governmental
> organisations in maintaining the integrity of indigenous languages
> which government has not been interested in.
> Kokorwe's promise that government is looking into introducing
> indigenous languages in our school curriculum should be taken with a
> pinch of salt given that she is not the first minister to make a
> pronouncement to that effect.
> Government's dedication to the archaic ethos of mono-culturalism
> continues to dominate public policy where minority issues are involved.
> It is a retrogressive position, which, despite the fact that our
> country is in its fifth decade of existence, still holds sway.
> The leaders of this country, unable to see beyond their narrow fears of
> the potentially excitable 'Other', as Malcom X called it, has kept this
> country in a time-warp of cultural stagnation.
> Botswana's neighbouring countries have made un-paralleled progress in
> recognising their multicultural make-up. In Namibia, Setswana, a
> minority language, is spoken and taught in schools. It is used in
> community radio stations.
> If the government leadership is really willing to change the current
> state, it should move on with it instead of making promises.
> Otherwise, just like in the past, many might be forgiven for taking
> this statement only as speechmaking at one ceremony.
> That is tokenism.
> --
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