Here’s a seemingly mundane but striking fact – The Zimbabwean Constitution recognises 16 languages, a number which reflects the diversity of vernacular expression in our country.
According to the Minister of Education, they government is working at incorporating all of them into the official learning curriculum, something that has offered some support to proposals to have all subjects taught in the vernacular. It’s all meant to help preserve our linguistic heritage.
While that idea is being tossed around and debated all over the place, efforts have been made by some individuals to actually do something about that.
An e-learning startup called Shona-Ndebele Tutor has been using simple technology to offer lessons in Shona and Ndebele, the two most widely spoken vernacular languages.
Through the use of a digital whiteboard and Skype, the Shona Ndebele Tutor platform provides online tutoring to any learner in any part of the world. The administrators of the platform pair a teacher of the specific language with a learner who will have signed up for a minimum of a single 1 hour lesson which costs £10 or a US dollar equivalent.
Payment options include EcoCash, which is meant to cater for Zimbabweans signing up for the service, something that ought to offer a learning alternative for the contingent of Zimbabweans that only speak one of the two vernacular languages.
The British Pounds price quote stems not only from the huge potential market that exists for Zimbabweans in the United Kingdom, but also references the origins of Shona Ndebele Tutor.
It was started by Taku Mutepfa, a Zimbabwean with a passion for uniting Zimbabweans through common languages. He happened to notice the opportunity that existed in this niche segment outside the country. He is a trained British Nursing professional, and the startup is registered and operates under British law.
The Shona Ndebele Tutor team is comprised of 8 individuals with most of the team’s skills centred on Education and learning material curation and some of the work being carried by teachers based here in Zimbabwe.
The e-tutoring model adopted by Shona-Ndebele is part of a huge online learning market and the extension to vernacular languages has a lot of merit considering the challenges with professional language tutorship that exists particularly for Zimbabweans outside the country.
It does, however, shine the light on other possibilities that the Ministry of Education might want to explore as a solution to the resource strain that is affecting the government in imparting education.