Recently Malawian authorities announced English is to become the language of pedagogy from as early as Standard 1. Some ‘experts’ have fumed and foamed over the plan saying it is all kinds of bad, I am here to unpack and attack the so called experts and to express support for the plan to Anglicize Malawi.
I completed a year as English major at Mzuzu University before defecting to The University of Malawi. My research project was on language and the theorists that inform(ed) me include Stuart Hall, Noam Chomsky and Karl Marx. This, I state, lest I be deemed a stranger on the issue.
Now that you know I am versed in language dogma, I would like to tear apart what experts have lied to you on the issue.
Japan, China and South Korea do not use English and some say we should follow their models. But these guys have their own established alphabets, we have an English alphabet. The three translated all important texts such as Anne Frank and Calculus; can anyone step forward and write a Chichewa or Chitumbuka book on Econometrics?
We simply cannot do it, we are too poor and we must rely on English, now what is the reason of teaching a child in Chichewa at a young age when he is going to need English when he reaches standard 5 or 6? Would it not be better to give him a head start at standard one?
Knowledge in Malawi occurs in English books, not vernacular, and to know English is by default to know more – English opens up the gates to knowledge.
Public schools currently teach children in Chichewa yet most of the kids in Malawi are not Chewa – if teaching in vernacular is so important for Children, why does every tribe not learn in their language? You have Sena children learning about Maliro ndi Miyambo ya a Chewa, as if they don’t have Miyambo.
In Tanzania they use Swahili. There is no tribe called Swahili - all tribes have their own languages and dump them for Swahili which is a hybrid language. English will foster unity as no one will be aggrieved of being forced to speak another’s language.
I did my school in English and Chichewa and went home to speak Chitumbuka; I never got confused or left out. And if Bingu wa Mutharika’s rants are anything to go by, people from areas where we have to internalize three languages ended up dominating the university system so much that they introduced Quotas.
Back to China, Japan and South Korea, these countries are the biggest importers of English teachers. They are proud, yes, but they need English – English is just too important to play with. In China now English is mandatory to graduate.
How many people speak Chichewa or Chitumbuka or Yao? What will having a good command of vernacular benefit us in 2030? Where can we apply miyambi in ICT or International Business? Let us stop the drama and get aggressive with modernization.
Russia abandoned its Communism, China too – the only way out of poverty is going full throttle into Western ways and the best way to start is by language. English will put us at par with the developed world; vernacular will keep us dancing Beni.
Most experts that speak against using English from grade one are well off people who learnt in English in the 80s and whose children go to English speaking private Kindergartens and primary schools. Why are they trying to condemn the rest of the nation to a useless vernacular curriculum?
Scholar’s of Jean Piaget and other educational psychologists say a child can uptake up to five languages, I mean, their brains are like sponges, everything that comes, they absorb, ably. It’s why kids are so good at learning new languages.
The experts cry that there are not enough teachers to teach in English but you mean the current teachers in schools cannot speak English and yet they allowed to teach?
The experts say English will confuse students as it is unfamiliar, they forget that the pupil only spends half a day at school and spends the rest of the day at home where they are spoken to in vernacular –if their logic is anything, wouldn’t the teaching of maths similarly confuse them since maths is as unfamiliar?
I heard someone warn that English would cause the Chichewa speaking standards to plummet, to him I say: who cares? Again, in 2015 what does speaking good Chichewa get you? Some airtime on the radio during the poetry segment, I bet, and that’s all.
These Karangas are just spooked tribalists parading as experts, first they seem oblivious of the fact that Malawi is highly linguistically diverse and therefore using vernacular is potentially oppressive as, like has been the case so far, one vernacular language will be imposed on many groups.
The experts also seem to underrate the fact that children are not empty slates; they are intelligent and can handle pretty much everything the system throws at them in school.
If we can, let us introduce English in pre-school and in our homes, let us talk to our children in English – vernacular will take Malawi nowhere and the more English the kids know, the better chances they have in excelling life, after all from standard 5, everything is in English.
All those who are against the plan should state the importance of vernacular in an English world – This is a great opportunity for Malawi to transform into a nation, so far these so called experts want it to remain a village.
So let those Chanco students who petitioned government against English bask in their vain pursuit of attention, let tribalists root for their vernacular, ignore them, do this for a prosperous Malawi.
Some of you are worried because you cannot perfectly get around English, you failed to learn, you are untrainable - we should focus on the kids that are to come.