Language Imbroglio

The language controversy will not go away.

The government must recognize that the new curriculum programme, which imposes seven languages on the people of Zambia is totally unacceptable, undemocratic, and a very clear abuse of authority.

The arbitrary choice of seven languages, out of the 73 commonly used will bring about unnecessary tension and in some cases division anchored on ancient adversaries, which have since been laid to rest.

The decision has political implications which will ultimately endanger our very carefully crafted one Zambia one nation.

It was definitely disheartening to hear vice president Guy Scott and indeed Minister of Education, Dr. John Phiri, evade the issue in parliament yesterday when very clear and pointed questions were raised by M.P.s

The situation on the ground is that some tribes such as the Lamba, feel marginalized by the decision which will see their children taught in a foreign language when they would rather have Lamba used as the local medium.

Vernacular as a subject has been accepted across the country mainly because English as a mode of communication provided a basis for unity and understanding.

Language it must be understood is not only a conveyor of meaning it is to a greater extent the embodiment of values and inculturation. Therefore any attempt to denigrate or underrate any tribe will be resisted because it interferes with the fundamental aspiration of being.

That is why the Lamba chiefs feel slighted that their language which is distinct is being superceded by bemba.  The two may be similar but are different and a very significant nuances of political import.  If the government intends to force down curricula it will be met with resistance which resistance will at some point become political and as usual the traditional chiefs will be accused of undermining government.

The reality on the other hand is that every tribe and language in this country is important and at any attempt to reduce the 72 tribes into seven will be considered to be cultural hegemony.

It would have been advisable and most appropriate for the technicians championing this policy to consult as widely as possible in order to secure consensus.  If this had been done the result would have included other linguistic groups that stand out.

For example the Tumbuka language is not exactly Chewa and neither is Lozi the language spoken in Kaoma.  An imposition of either will naturally be resisted.

Instead of fomenting tribal misunderstanding and mistrust it is important that government thinks through this policy and takes heed from the input of our own church leaders, the catholic bishops of Zambia who have ably guided that this policy should not be implemented as it violates human rights.

As we have said before, might is not always right.  The government may wish to force down the policy but ultimately its success or failure will depend on how the people on the ground accept it.

Already the people in Chavuma feel offended, very offended at that, for an organization to advertise a job position in the area, requiring that applicants should be competent in Bemba when this is not the language spoken there.

Such are the sensitivities which government must deal with.

Categorized | Editorial

2 Responses to “Language Imbroglio”

  1. Ngombala Muhapi wa Linaha says:

    Point of correction, 70% of Kaoma is Lozi speaking.

  2. Sinkamba Wisdom says:


    Fellow country men and women.
    Iam one of those who have respect for my Tribe Namwanga, our culture and values just like any tribe [ 73 tribes] have. Therefore, I find it very painful to be treated as tails of Bembas in our region. My point is that we are apeople who want to teach our children in our own language Namwanga just like any tribe will be proud to teach their children in their own languages,So let those concerned with this idea if they have retrogressive ideas and haggard minds they must retire and let those who can manage and lead this country as per our Motto of One Zambia One Nation take over. I for one Iam very much against that Bemba should be taught in schools in Nakonde and Isoka I would prefer we teach our sons and daughters
    Namwanga not Bemba. Take Bemba to Bemba Land,Therefore just like the Lamba Chiefs on the Copperbelt have said they dont like the idea of imposing Bemba on the Copperbelt. They are very much right their position must be respected. Let us learn to foster unity of purpose not unity of appeasement.Who tells you that the 7 languages are superior than the remaining 66 languages[tribes]. Please kindly revist this decision as all 73 tribes / languages are equals to one another no tribe / language should be subordinated to the other. This is clear violations rights and our aspirations and inspirations.
    Human rights commission where are you?


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