Meet the visionary behind Ndawana and Friends

Zimbabwe has an estimated 3 million plus people living and working in the diaspora. There is a new generation of what is now termed as the 3rd culture kids comprising children born and raised in countries that are different from where both parents originate from and most of them do not speak any language from their ancestral land. This situation and the threat back in Zimbabwe that local languages continue to face from globalisation ignited UK based Ronica Chenga to start a brilliant and innovative platform to teach Shona and Ndebele called Ndawana & friends. 

By Plot Mhako

Earground recently caught up with the lady behind the great initiative Ronica Chenga a Mum-preneur, daughter, sister, aunt, manager who was motivated by by her son to start learn Shona and Ndebele called Ndawana & friends. 

Born in Bulawayo, hailing from Masvingo and raised in Harare before she moved to the Great Britain at a tender age Chenga remains rooted to her languages and seeks to promote and preserve them.

Ronica recounts that there wasn’t much content that represented her son and other black & Zimbabwean children in the media. 

“I got the conviction to produce the cartoon when my son asked me when he would have blonde hair and green eyes. It almost felt like he was patiently waiting for the transition and for me his mum to take him to the shop to get him his look so that he looked like the kids he was watching on the TV.”

WHY NDAWANA? Her choice of the name Ndawana which means ‘I have found’ speaks to the discovery of her confidence, voice, mission and calling.  She created a cartoon based concept whose characters were inspired by her son (Matipa) who shares the same name, her mother who plays (Sindiso) and herself becoming Ndawana.”

Ronica Chenga

A study found by the World Literacy Foundation states that a majority of native languages will be extinct by 2050. 

Empowered by her passion to see Zimbabwean children to have a knowledge of their heritage and be proud of it Ronica came up with two books that teach Shona and Ndebele.

“Our languages are fast getting diluted and it worries me”

According to the World Literacy Foundation, “ Language is much more than a device for communication. It holds irreplaceable cultural significance, ancestral memories, and heritage, unique knowledge and traditions. These assets are lost at the moment a language disappears.”

In a space of a year since taking off, the initiative is offering the Let’s Learn Basic Shona and Ndebele physical and ebooks, mugs and soon they plan to introduce T-Shirts and more products and they are currently working on developing an App and an online learning gaming platform. 

Ndawana and Friends cartoons are available on YouTube and every Saturday Ronica hosts on Facebook the Chitima-Isitimela live a show involves interviews and games with various guests including children. 

Chenga, the founding member of Bantu Clan Club which is a club that facilitates kids & adult sessions to practise the Shona and Ndebele that they are learning in an environment with other kids (for kids) and convenient hours for adults. Ronica is proving to be unstoppable as she continues to make headways in promoting the two languages, breaking physical barriers. 

Sindiso, Ndawana & Matipa

The program design is mainly targeting anyone who wishes to learn Shona and Ndebele. A large demographic is children who pick up languages quicker. 

“It breaks my heart that Zimbabweans across the globe are quick to forsake our language and culture”

Elated by the positive response to the project from various people and the kids as witnessed by a steady growth in numbers of participants and followers. However, Ronica hopes for more interest towards educational programs, especially languages. 

The impact of the project recently saw one of the Ndawana & Friends video clips being played on the national television ZBC TV during the main news bulletin as part of the International Mother Language Day commemorations. 

“This boosted my morale and convinced me that iam doing something positive. I felt very motivated”

What is more fascinating and mind blowing about Ronica is how she manages to balance her normal daily work, motherhood, this and several projects she is part of.  

She had this to say, “I manage all of these through sheer discipline and planning. I have a diary that I diligently follow. It’s not always easy but I push through as I need to see all these things through.”

The content creator and educator attributes part of the success to her ability to work with other creatives through collaborations. 

“I think I have been lucky that the partners I have collaborated with had the same mindset which is that we are an army on a mission to create content for our culture.”

Ndawana and Friends in available on Facebook, Youtube, Instagram and also Tik Tok. You can buy the books on Amazon.

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