We concur with the readers’ views on our letter to the editor, titled ‘Oshindonga as a medium of instruction in Omusati’ on the articles in The Namibian: ‘Efimbo pamwe opaife?’ by Edward Tangeni Shikesho and Kosmos N. Nghisheenapo, as well as ‘Setting record straight on Oshindonga as MoI’ by Eino Haifidi in New Era, both dated 30 July 2021.
As we alluded in the letter, we discussed the above issue based on a research perspective – not generally as the author (Haifidi) of the latter article did. It is against this background that we would like to put our ideas in simplistic form to aid Haifidi and the nation at large to grasp it well.
To begin, Haifidi claimed that “It is not only Oshindonga language being used as a MoI in Omusati region but there are schools using Oshikwanyama language as a MoI.”
The question remains, are Oshindonga and Oshikwanyama predominant local languages in Omusati region? We would like to add that the issue of the predominant local language is not just used in Omusati region but also in Zambezi region, where Silozi is used exclusively as a medium of instruction, while Sifwe is the predominant familiar local language.
Additionally, the author posits that “Oshiwambo languages comprise eight different dialects…” which is not true; they are 12, as stated by Mbenzi (2019), namely: Oshindonga, Oshikwanyama, Oshingandjera, Otshikwambi, Oshikwaluudhi, Oshinkolonkadhi, Oshimbadja, Oshimbalanhu, Oshivale, Oshikwanka, Oshikafima and Oshindombodhola.
We, therefore, urge the author to research extensively on Oshiwambo dialects before he misleads the nation with such claim.
With reference to paragraph nine of his article, the author stated that “… I don’t think there will be any objection from the ministry to approve such language to be used as a MoI in the appropriate communities”.
We do understand that whenever changes come, people resist. However, what matters now is the law. Until such law is amended, his claim is insignificant and pointless.
The author also mentioned that “It is not clear why Otshikwambi orthography did not advance to the level of Oshindonga and Oshikwanyama, although to this day we have some materials written in Otshikwambi...” Based on the above statement, the implication that can be drawn is that the author wants us to leave the development of Otshikwambi orthography in the hands of missionaries.
In other words, he wants to say we should wait for missionaries to come back to give clarity on why Otshikwambi did not advance to the level of Oshindonga and Oshikwanyama, and let them proceed with the development of Otshikwambi orthography.
We believe missionaries have done enough; it is, therefore, the responsibility of the Oshiwambo linguists to investigate why the above language never advanced to the level of Oshindonga and Oshikwanyama, and develop its orthography.
Moving forward, the author failed to acknowledge that Oshindonga is used as a MoI and a TL for political reasons in Omusati region, as he said that “To claim that Oshindonga is chosen as a MoI and as a TL in schools within Omusati region for political rationales is very disingenuous and has no iota of truth”.
However, in conclusion, he admitted it, as he said that “We have seen how civil wars erupted in some countries, caused by language issues”. The question here is, ‘how does the standardisation of the languages of minority lead to civil war while the current situation of their unstandardised languages does not lead to civil war?
In fact, the current situation of the isolation of the language of the minority could be the cause of it. An example is the Soweto Uprising of 1976 (when black South African students opposed the use of Afrikaans, an African language as a MoI). We are also not in support of such disruptive activity.
We, therefore, would like to decolonise the mind of the author, scholars and the nation at large from such reasoning.
In addition, as linguistics students and Oshindonga speakers, we intend to unpack and solve all the unspoken issues within the Namibian educational context for the betterment of Namibian pupils, regardless of their first languages or regions of origin.
We accept the challenge that the standardisation process of all Oshiwambo dialects will be a challenge; we, therefore, suggest to develop an Oshiwambo synonyms dictionary (to fill the gap among Oshiwambo dialects) while investigating into the standardisation of an inclusive Oshiwambo language that accommodate all Oshiwambo dialects.
Do you still view this as political reasoning? Such dictionary will provides lexis synonyms that exist in all Oshiwambo dialects – for instance, let us look at the following word: lies are “iifundja/uumbudhi” in Oshindonga, “oipupulu/oumbudi” in Oshikwanyama, “iilombo” in Otshikwambi, “ooli” in Oshikwaluudhi, Oshingandjera and Oshinkolonkadhi, while in Oshimbadja, they say “iilombo/oipupulu” – and lastly, “ooli/uumbuvi” in Oshimbalanhu. We find this helpful to both teachers and learners.
If we could have such an inclusivity book, it will assist speakers of other Oshiwambo dialects in learning Oshindonga and Oshikwanyama, comprehend those concepts of the languages, as well as enhance learners’ academic performance. The greenlight of this will also shine on teachers who experience challenges of teaching Oshindonga and Oshikwanyama in Omusati region because of language barriers with the teachers and learners.
Lastly, we are grounding this with reference to Otjiherero, which consists of various dialects, namely: Otjitwa, Otjihakaona, Otjikuvare, Oluthimba, Olungambwe, Otjingumbi and the Central Otjiherero but they only have it as one language.
Why can we not standardise Oshiwambo languages to accommodate all Oshiwambo dialects like Otjiherero?