Lost History Foundation has asked the Malawi government to declare all local languages as national languages as opposed to the current scenario where Chichewa is taken as the main language.
In a petition to the Minister of Civic Education and National Unity Timothy Mtambo, the Foundation says all indigenous languages should be promoted to the level of Chichewa as national languages.
The Foundation wants languages such as Yao, Lhomwe, Sena, Tonga, Lambya, Ngonde and Ngoni to be national languages and also says Chichewa should be referred to as Chinyanja.
“As you may agree, languages are integral to development of anynation. There is a huge chunk of cultural knowledge and values which can only be expressed through indigenous languages.
“This information is at the brink of extinction due to the suppression of other indigenous languages in Malawi,” reads in part the petition signed by the Foundation’s executive director Conleith Selenje.
The petition is asking the ministry to review the impact of Malawi government’s policy directive of 1968 on indigenous languages.
The Foundation says in its petition that after independence in 1964, the most common language in Malawi was chinyanja but four years later, government implemented a policy directive to change the name to become Chichewa and made it the only compulsory national language in schools.
“Indigenous languages spoken in Malawi should be officially recognised as national languages at par with Chichewa.
“They should be taught in schools and students should select among the subjects which languages to learn at school,” adds the petition.
In reaction, Mtambo said the matter needs dialogue and is worth pursuing.
He said: “Language is an important part of a nation and it is also key when it comes to issues of national unity. When it comes to recognising tribes and their languages, people feel important that their language is actually spoken. We need to discuss this.”
“I am looking forward to having an audience with Lost History Malawi and afterwards, we will encourage the citizens to talk about these issues.”