Patrick Chitumba, Midlands Bureau Chief
MIDLANDS State University’s Language Institute (MSULI) is going to offer Sign Language training to all nurses, doctors and police officers in the Midlands Province in an effort to cover the communication gap that exists thereby affecting service delivery in the two sectors.
Addressing delegates and academics gathered at the commissioning of the MSULI at the main campus in Gweru on Monday, the institute’s director, Professor Wiseman Magwa, said they had noticed a gap in the medical sector and the police force when it comes to dealing with people with hearing challenges.
The Institute, Prof Magwa said, has already made an impact in the country by successfully co-ordinating the translation of the National Constitution into all 16 official languages.
“This is a record achievement which has not been realised anywhere in the world except in Zimbabwe. The Institute has already established partnerships with the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs; Parliament of Zimbabwe; The Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference; The Zimbabwe Gender Commission and Ministry of Health and Child Welfare. Please note that we have so far been asked to offer Sign Language training to all nurses, doctors and police officers in the Midlands Province so that they are able to communicate with people with hearing challenges in their respective areas of service,” he said.
Prof Magwa said the Language Institute is going to become a centre of excellence in language research and consultancy services.
“The Constitution of Zimbabwe (2013) officially recognises 16 languages namely; Shona, Ndebele, Kalanga, Nambya, Sotho, Tonga, Chewa, Barwe, Koisan, Ndau, Shangani, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, English and Sign Language. The only way to develop these languages and cultures is through the institutionalisation of language services such as translation, interpreting, teaching and editing,” he said.
Prof Magwa said the vision of the Institute is to be a one-stop world-class language consultancy and support services centre dedicated to the advancement of language research, policy, planning, translation, interpretation, teaching and editing.
“The Institute was then created in October 2018 to mark the transformation of the Constitution Translation Project into a permanent language centre at the MSU Gweru Main Campus. The Institute is mainly a language services centre with very limited teaching responsibilities. Its field of research will be the African languages of Zimbabwe.
“MSULI, therefore, shall develop and offer a variety of language related services from which reasonable income can be generated in the medium and long terms. MSULI is going to be a one-stop language centre which is a non-Faculty, University-wide language services centre for Zimbabwe, Africa and beyond,” he said.
Prof Magwa said key services currently being offered by the Institute include teaching of marginalised languages such as Tonga, Nambya, Sotho and Kalanga for degree purposes.
He said they also offer beginners short courses for all the officially recognised languages in Zimbabwe plus some international languages like Chinese, Portuguese and French.
In his key note address, MSU Vice Chancellor Professor Victor Muzvidziwa said it is important to note that Zimbabwe is a proud and sovereign state that fervently seeks to meaningfully uplift the lives of its people.
“One of the areas in which the country wants to do this is in realising the growth and development of all its languages for the benefit of ordinary people in this country. This is in line with what many other developed countries did- to recognise fully the value of their national languages as an important pillar of meaningful development. The French, Germans, Russians, British, Americans, Spaniards, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, Danes, Koreans, Indonesians, Poles and many other countries have all based their industrial and economic development on the strength of their own languages,” he said.
The recognition of these languages, Prof Muzvidziwa said, is critical to the national development agenda, since the development of people always starts with recognition and use of their languages.
He said in essence, the recognition of these national languages should be seen as the core component of establishing a national consensus that will lead to unity, peace and development in the country through the promotion of these national languages and cultures.