Reinstate Ikalanga in schools

Updated: September 9, 2012

By Jason Mooketsi Ranthatsa, Student, University of Botswana— reprinted from The Botswana Gazette

This is a plea to the government to consider reintroducing the teaching of Ikalanga in schools. As an endangered language, all stakeholders must embark on protection of Ikalanga as its demise will be detrimental to the preservation of an important part of the nation’s history. The reinstatement of Ikalanga in schools has been long overdue and the implementation of this exercise is incomplex to undertake. The Bakalanga are densely populated in north eastern Botswana and remain as one of the country’s largest non-Tswana speaking ethnic group. Ikalanga is undisputedly the second mostly spoken language nationwide.

It is of interest to recall that, in the days of the Protectorate, Ikalanga was taught in schools as a subject and also as a language of instruction. It was only after independence that Ikalanga was forbidden in schools and other official places. This post-independence idealism against the so-called minority tribes by Sir Seretse Khama administration was draconian.  Setswana was declared a national language for ultimate realization of social and political unity. In the 1960’s, Botswana People’s Party (BPP) which had massive followers in the Bukalanga area seemed as a threat to Khama’s political career, hence he declared Setswana not for unity but to combat the BPP as a mere political gain. The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) recruited prominent BPP top brass and allocated them cabinet posts as a strategy to sabotage the BPP.

The prohibition of Ikalanga in schools was a unilateral decision by the government. Bakalanga were never consulted on this development. Now it seems like even today, President Ian Khama has not disappointed, as he has followed in his father’s footsteps by shunning consultation and engagement as a democratic procedure such as increase in alcohol levy.

Western education which is today taught in schools was introduced early among the Bakalanga in the form of mission schools.

London Missionary Society (LMS) were established in Masunga, Mapoka and Tshesebe in 1920 after Chief Nswazwi had in 1899 requested the establishment of those schools. Bakalanga provided the funds and labour for the construction of those schools whereas the LMS paid the teachers. Tati Training Institute, even though short-lived was a key factor for the Bakalanga education.  The demise of the school is attributed to Bangwato regent, Tshekedi, who developed enmity towards the support of the school.


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