EDITORIAL COMMENT: Govt must ensure books are written by proficient authors

Mrs Sylvia Utete-Masango

Mrs Sylvia Utete-Masango

THE Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has finally recalled a Grade One Environmental Science textbook that contains embarrassing language and grammatical mistakes.

The textbook in isiNdebele wrongly spells indlebe (ear) by putting it as “indleve”, while ikhanda (head) is written as “amakhanda”.

The textbook titled “Step In, Environmental Science, Grade 1 Learners’ Book” was co-authored by Blessing Chabikwa, Luigina Shaw and David Witt.

We shudder to imagine how much damage this toxic textbook did to our Grade One learners before the ministry took action.

The big question is how did such a bogus textbook remain part of the science curriculum for two terms, seeing that the book was only removed this week?

This surely displays serious negligence on every stakeholder in the primary and secondary education sector.

Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education Permanent Secretary Dr Sylvia Utete-Masango indicated that she had received complaints and ordered that the consignment with errors be returned to suppliers.

She seemed to place the blame at the door of the Curriculum Development Department.  She implored the newly appointed department’s head Mrs Tumisang Thabela to put in place mechanisms to prevent such mistakes in future.

“I’ve not seen the book myself but you are not the first one to phone concerning that book. If it’s a consignment with errors, the books must be returned to suppliers. The schools that bought those books should return them,” said Dr Utete-Masango.

The problem started with the authors that ventured into writing in a language they are not familiar with, clearly without seeking assistance from Ndebele language speakers.  If they indeed had secured the services of people proficient in the language there is no way they could have missed, or overlooked, such errors.

It was highly negligent of Chabikwa, Shaw and Witt to expect the publishers to note the fatal mistakes contained in the discredited textbook, when they as authors are supposed to be the experts.

There have been numerous spelling mistakes involving Ndebele words with reckless abandon and while most have been been made by individual companies, it’s unacceptable when such errors are sanctioned by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.

Primary education, particularly Grade One schooling, is the key to developing a learner’s mind and abilities.  Primary education is meant to give children a strong foundation in the basics of a general curriculum.

It’s unfortunate that due to the carelessness of the authors, editors, publishers and Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, most Grade One learners have been exposed to a false foundation simply because someone didn’t do their job.

Although we welcome the fact that the textbooks have been recalled, it’s worrisome that no one seems to be taking responsibility for the highly embarrassing and offensive mistakes.

Such mediocrity didn’t have to get this far. The authors should have been the first people to address these glaring errors if they truly cared about their audience.

They surely could have easily found a Ndebele speaker to assist them from the beginning.

This episode is indeed of serious concern to us. On the evidence of Chabikwa, Shaw and Witt’s shoddy piece of work, critics can be justified for asserting that any book can find its way into schools and the content can be more objectionable than this.  It means that textbooks that pose a threat to national security can find their way into schools.  This can happen because there appears to be no standards control in the ministry.

We don’t expect a ministry that is charged with educating our kids to be actually giving them a wrong education.

Mrs Thabela has a lot more work to do than dealing with the Environmental Science textbook that has just been withdrawn from schools. We say this because there have been complaints in relation to other books, particularly a few that were produced through the Education Transition Fund. Any parent who has a kid in school will confirm that they have had challenges here and there helping their children do their homework because of mistakes in some textbooks.

The fund was put together during the inclusive government era. Admittedly it was a rushed exercise to attend to a clear emergency as schools lacked textbooks.

However, there cannot be any reason to justify the use of material that teaches our children the wrong things.


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  • mtshayisa

    Wow. Correct utterances from the perm. sec.Mama Thabela sungene ejogweni eliginqisayo. Kulogwalo lwe’History olugcwele amanga ngembali yeZimbabwe. Aluhlolwe

  • zibulo

    This is nothing . What about the other glaring RUBBISH of having Shonas teaching our primary school children !!!. To the Shona population elsewhere in the country , no offence, but what your kith and kin are doing , wrecking havoc by forcing everyone to speak shona, is very very dangerous. Do not judge us Mthwakazi people as tribalist. We never came your areas and imposed ourselves. Your kith and kin are being posted to the core of Mthwakazi deliberately by tribalists in Govt, bent of diluting the Mthwakazi communities . We all know its immoral that what your kith and kin is doing here. Police , CIO, Ministries, Mhlahlandlela are all occupied by 90 percent shonas. Whilst we fight the corrupt ZANU together , one day when changes come we will physically fight and remove them forcibly because it was never through moraaly right. The papers and ZBC have a tendency of not revelaing these things , just like they never broadcast the Gugurahundi Killings of defenceless Mthwakazi by an armed Army and you never knew about it till later when Catholics pushed the agenda. Its claimed we are uneducated but i ask, have your kith and kin developed yur home areas since they are educated ??? We fought for Zimbabwe’s freedom and Nkomo said we should unite , not like ZAPU and ZANU did it where one party was swallowed, but mutually. Devolution will bring power to all Provinces and the Locals will determine their future, but ZANU will not allow it. Manicaland where there were diamonds but locals never got anything, and Mthwakazi where people from afar eat the cream of the place in front of our eyes , with police/army /cio protection , are examples of why Devolution of power should BE IMPLEMENTED NOW.