"All education should be in indigenous African languages" :Prah

20 Jun 2013 09:40
WINDHOEK, 20 JUN (NAMPA) - All education in Africa - from pre-primary up to tertiary level - should be taught in indigenous African languages, eminent sociologist and anthropologist Professor Kwesi Prah said here on Tuesday.
Prah, who is currently the Director of the Centre for Advanced Studies of African Societies (CASAS) in Cape Town, South Africa said nobody is able to make progress on the basis of somebody else?s language.
He made the statement during the Ministry of Education?s Language Policy Review conference held in the capital, and where he was tasked with speaking on the role of indigenous African languages in education.
The conference, which was due to end on Thursday, was aimed at facilitating the finalisation of the draft language policy to enhance access to mother-tongue education, as well as to map out implementation and sensitisation strategies.
?We are not going to make progress on the basis of languages such as English, Portuguese or French as these are colonial languages. These languages were imposed on us in order to rule us,? he stated at the beginning of his address.
According to Prah, it is time for Africa to think ?radically and outside the box? for the sake of future generations.
?The more we bring up new children who can?t speak their languages properly, but speak languages such as English, Portuguese or French like parrots, the more we will lose our children,? he noted.
He said languages, especially indigenous African languages, ?define the extent of our knowable world, and are the central pillar of culture?.
?Languages don?t mark time, they stagnate and go backwards if not developed. When we, after independence, persist in the use of these languages, what we are doing is simply continuing the colonial story. We have become the custodians of maintaining the colonial structure, giving it a new lease on life,? said the professor.
Prah added that he is not inferring that people should not learn English, or any other foreign language.
?You should learn them, just like a Dutchman would learn English. You do not learn English to compete with Shakespeare. The reason we learn these languages is to be able to use them when working,? he continued.
He, however, also directed blame to the elite, saying they ?make nice speeches about the importance of using mother-tongue?, but fail to allocate enough resources to it.
?We need to seriously think afresh. It is not just the first few years of education that we need to teach in our mother-tongue. Everybody knows mother-tongue education in the first few years lays a good foundation,? Prah said.
Echoing these sentiments, Dr Levi Namaseb from the University of Namibia (Unam)?s Department of African Language Studies said the use of foreign languages in Namibian schools is partly to blame for the high number of high-school dropouts.
He said although costs are the main stumbling blocks in developing all indigenous languages in Namibia, it can still be done.
?By not developing them, the country will pay a much higher price,? he stated.