Educator brings back pride in Shona

HARARE - Educator Shungu Sabeta is a woman on a mission. She is bucking the trend by bringing back the cool to learning and speaking in Shona.

Sabeta recently established the “Taurai Tione Chikoro cheShona” which seeks to equip Zimbabwean children with skills, tools and knowledge to effectively speak in Shona.

“Speaking in English has long been regarded as a high status symbol in Zimbabwe with children forced to learn the language at the expense of their mother languages. Languages such as Shona or Ndebele are regarded with disdain,” said Sabeta.

Like many indigenous languages in the world, local indigenous languages have become endangered because of language deaths or “linguicide” — a by-product of colonisation.

In a world that is increasingly multilingual and multicultural, it is surprising that Zimbabwean parents are reluctant to get their children to be proficient in speaking local languages.

Part of it could be attributed to the fact that local languages are perceived to have little value in the business sector. Yet, with the abandonment of one’s mother language, there is also a loss of cultural assertiveness and identity. Some parents boast, “My child only speaks English, haatauri (does not speak) Shona!” with a beaming smile.”

The message the child gets is who we are is not important. So many pre-schools, junior and high schools forbid children to speak their own language, so from a young age children acquire an inferiority complex about their own language.

“Taurai Tione Chikoro cheShona is allowing children to bask in their language and have a real sense of self, and who they are. They don’t have to be ashamed to be Shona, instead they can be proud. Shona is presented in a fun creative way,” said Sabeta.

“I say let the child be multi-lingual, empower them, let them know and be themselves, let them know about the world.”

Sabeta said she is inspired to empower children with the knowledge that she received from her ancestors.

“My most important job is being an educator; passing on the wisdom imparted to me from my ancestors, my teachers within the community and abroad to children and inspiring them to surpass what we give them. I promote holistic learning for our children that is centred on the child, that follows the child’s development individually,” she said in an interview.

Sabeta who also founded the Tunyenyedzi Montessori Pre-school revealed that the educational initiatives that she has set up have been able to boost the children’s self-esteem and nurture a love for learning, broaden their minds through the various materials and learning equipment.

“The Tunyenyedzi Montessori approach is holistic and aims to develop the whole child. Fundamental to the approach is the belief that a child’s early years from birth to six are the period when they have the greatest capacity to learn,” she said.

“Tunyenyedzi Montessori children enjoy learning to think creatively and critically through all subject areas, including maths, language arts, science, history and social studies, world language, physical education, music, arts and design.”

Prior to founding the two schools, Sabeta worked in Canada designing institutions before moving to Ghana to design schools, houses and community buildings.

She also worked for Housing People of Zimbabwe assisting low income earners to house themselves.

“I worked in South Africa as an architect and interior designer after which I came back home to work for a retail giant as an architect and designer to help enhance the experience of shoppers and I finally had the opportunity to start my own school,” she said.

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