Inclusion of minority languages and educational content as survival strategies

The findings show that Kwayedza and Umthunywa produce content suitable for both primary- and secondary-school learners. Even though this was a strategy to gain more sales, the point remains that it is a noble move that leads to the development of learners’ indigenous language skills at a time when much focus has been placed on learning English. The Kwayedza editor indicated that writers of a Grade 5 primary school textbook published by College Press utilised material from Kwayedza. The same is also true of a form-two Shona textbook, titled Nhapitapi yeChishona Bhuku reMudzidzi- The editor further indicated that they had been approached by another publisher seeking permission to reproduce their content in Shona textbooks. He argues that this is because their content is credible and their command of the Shona language is beyond reproach in an era when many are shunning the language by preferring to send children to schools, including preschools, where English is prioritised. Umthunywa also produces content helpful for Ndebele language learners at both primary- and secondary-school levels. Indeed, it was one of their strategies to mitigate against falling circulation.

These findings dispute the claim that indigenous media are excluded from development communication (Mpofu and Salawu 2018b). They also put into question scholars’ suspicions that indigenous languages lack the requisite properties useful in development (see Zeleza 2006). This is because the findings show that, despite Kwayedza’? and Umthunywa’? tendency to folkorise (Mpofu and Salawu 2018b) or to sensationalise and prioritise stories about ordinary people (Mabweazara 2007), they play a significant role in development. Unlike Mpofu and Salawu (2018b), who conceptualised development in a narrow economic sense, this chapter looks at development holistically. On the basis of the findings above, it is clear that Kwayedza and Umthunywa play a crucial role in indigenous language education. They therefore are important to the preservation of indigenous languages and language development amongst indigenous people. As Pugliese argues, ‘Many of those who read in the native languages are the rural and urban poor’ (quoted in Ogechi 2001, 190). This is also true of Zimbabwe even though the Kwayedza editor contends that even the elite also read the paper, despite pretending not to. It is also arguable that, in an era where English has gained global hegemony, indigenous media are perhaps one of the last remaining outposts of indigenous language preservation.

Furthermore, Kwayedza also introduced a section dedicated to the minority language, Ndau. Prior to enacting the 2013 national constitution, Ndau was considered a dialect of Shona (see Mpofu 2013); however, in the 2013 constitution, it was given the status of a full language. This language was previously marginalised and the Ndau were not amused by it (Mpofu 2013); instead, they resorted to social media platforms, such as Facebook, where they established a group with a similar name to one that was later established in Kwayedza, ‘Rekete chiNdau [Speak Leave a Legacy’ (Mpofu and Salawu 2018c). It is in this group that they raised and discussed their concerns over the marginalisation of their language. It is arguable that Kwayedza's introduction of a section dedicated to the minority Ndau language, Rekete chiNdau (Speak Ndau), demonstrates not only indigenous language media’s centrality to language development and preservation but also their centrality in nation-building and national-development projects.

Mpofu (2013) and Mpofu and Salawu (2018c) observe that the Ndau felt marginalised not only in the mainstream media but also in the Zimbabwean national project as a whole. It is therefore likely that they felt that they did not belong, as they were treated as the ‘other’ in mainstream national [public service] media. The move by Kwayedza may go a long way in making them feel part of Zimbabwe. This is significant, especially considering Mabweazara’s (2007) observation, with regards to Umthunywa, that its popularity amongst the Ndebele-speaking people was due to feelings of exclusion in, and fatigue with, mainstream media narratives. From this perspective, it is plausible to say that once a certain section of the populace feels marginalized, they may not be fully committed to nation building and national development because they will say they are not part of it - they may feel like a nation within a nation (see Ndlovu-Gatsheni 2009). The inclusion of such minority languages and dialects in the mainstream media may help to do away with those feelings of marginalisation that, in the long run, may breed resentment and eventually open confrontation.

In this context, the chapter, contrary to Mpofu and Salawu’s (2018b) argument that indigenous newspapers are excluded from development communication due to their sensationalism and folklorisation of language, argues that indigenous language media have a crucial role to play in national development and nation building. The chapter further argues that sensationalism is not an end in itself, but means to ends - that is, multiple means and multiple ends - beginning with profitability in terms of sales and advertising revenue. The other ends are development - economic, political and socio-cultural (e.g. language) - and nation building. In this light, I argue that Mpofu and Salawu’s (2018b) observation that they do not cover politics and economic issues, whilst acceptable at face value, is faulty, for everything is political, and Kwayedza's introduction of Ndau is political. It is also arguable from a decolonial perspective that the inclusion of an Ndau column in Kwayedza makes the previously invisible visible. It humanises the language that has long been rendered invisible by the Shona language, which itself is reduced to the position of the ‘other’ by English. However, from a CPE perspective, the inclusion of an Ndau column was inspired by the desire to increase sales and, as confirmed by the editor, it was successful.

 
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