The Language Question, Development and the Education of the Disadvantaged through Open and Distance Learning (ODL): A Case of the Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU)

Isaac Mhute

Faculty of Arts and Education, Zimbabwe Open University, Zimbabwe

Maxwell Constantine Chando Musingafi

Faculty of Applied Social Sciences, Department of Development Studies, Zimbabwe Open University, Zimbabwe

Keywords: Language question, Second language acquisition, Open and distance learning, English language, Shona, Ndebele, Disadvantaged groups.


This paper focuses on the language question and the education of the disadvantaged through open and distance learning at tertiary level. It seeks to explore some of the difficulties associated with the teaching and learning of the disadvantaged through open and distance learning as a result of the Zimbabwean educational language policy. The paper is a qualitative analysis of data gathered on teaching and learning of some of the disadvantaged students through open and distance learning in the Zimbabwe Open University. Observation and unstructured interviews were used to establish the conditions experienced by these students in their endeavor to comprehend their modules as well as express themselves in tutorials, assignments and examinations. The paper expresses the situation and moves on to demonstrate the unavailability of anything sacred in the use of English as the sole medium of instruction in open and distance learning. It is suggesting the implementation of a more favourable language policy in open and distance learning since the mission of the Zimbabwe Open University as an open and distance learning institution is to ensure education for all. The paper is suggesting the need to use local languages as the languages of instruction, for instance, the two national languages (Shona and Ndebele).


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