[lg policy] Botswana: 'Language policy discriminates'- UB academic
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Thu Sep 29 15:15:55 UTC 2011
'Language policy discriminates'- UB academic
By choosing to use only two languages, English and Setswana as a
medium of instruction in schools, government has formalised some form
of cultural discrimination, a University of Botswana academic, Dr.
Rebecca Lekoko has stated.
Through this discriminating language policy, government was denying
people their birth right identity and culture, the don said.
Dr. Lekoko was speaking yesterday at a roundtable discussion of
inequalities and marginalisation in Botswana organised by the Open
Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA).
She said it was disappointing that documents such as the Vision 2016
document advocate for a "linguistically diverse" Botswana, but that
there were no policies to ensure that this happens.
"Monoculture is rooted in the belief that we are Batswana in Botswana
and speak Setswana. It comes with the assumption that we have and are
promoting one culture. That assumption excludes many other people,"
While she admitted that Botswana cannot use all its over 20 languages
in schools, government should put in place mechanisms to support
teaching in mother tongues.
She said it is surprising that government complains of lack of
resources when it comes to implementing the teaching of indigenous
languages in Botswana.
"In 1997, the Botswana Language Council recommended the teaching of a
third language in schools and government agreed and immediately
started the teaching of French in 15 schools. In 2007, the same
Council recommended teaching of San languages. But the government
resisted the call.
In 2010, Chinese was introduced at the University of Botswana and
nobody questioned the costs of doing that. It is all about
commitment," Dr. Lekoko emphasised.
Job Morris, a representative from the Kuru Trust in D'Kar, said as San
people, they feel excluded from the socio-political mainstream and are
deprived of representation in forums in which someone always speak on
"Our chiefs are not recognised. Government does not recognise the
indigenous people of this country," Morris said. He added that they
have been deprived of an opportunity to speak their various San
languages in public places.
"Sometimes, as the San people, we are even afraid of speaking our
language in a place where there is a national majority. We are
regarded as alien because of our clicking tongues," he said.
He said the fact that they are expected to assimilate into the larger
Setswana culture is "an indirect cultural genocide."
A member of the audience who only identified himself as a member of
the San tribe from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve agreed with
"Calling for the use of Setswana is not a form of nation building.
It's a form of colonialist domination. We are not against the fact
that Setswana is a national language. But we are calling for
government to also recognise other languages," he said.
OSISA is a non-governmental organisation committed to deepening
democracy, protecting human rights and enhancing good governance in
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