Use of African languages in schools need political backing

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Tue Aug 9 14:07:01 UTC 2005

>>From Angola Press,     Luanda - Tuesday, August 09, 2005 -

Use of African languages in schools need political backing

Windhoek, Namibia, 08/07 - African experts meeting here to chart a new
language course, on Friday expressed optimism that the African Union and
NEPAD (the New Partnership for Africa`s Development would encourage the
use of native languages in schools. The experts, however, said the issues
of shifting focus to mother tongues need logistical support, which might
lead to political opposition and financial constraints.

Secretary-General Mamadou Ndoye of the Association for the Development of
Education in Africa (ADEA) said African governments would be consulted on
the implementation of the language policy and the AU will be requested to
organise a ministerial meeting to build political support for the use of
African languages in education. "We have had fruitful debates and
exchanges. We have learnt that language policy can be separated from
challenges that Africa is facing today; these are important because
education aspects deals with all these challenges,"  Ndoye told

He said the use of African languages in education makes a difference,
adding that language is not just used for improving performance in
schools, but when used well, Africa`s development problems would be
surmounted. "From the present situation to the future, we must move into
the future with change. We are going to face obstacles resulting from
political opposition, cultural, ideological and financial opposition as
well as the technical obstacles, but these usually exist in Africa," Ndoye

He said Africa needs laws to guide the implementation of the language
policy. Experts discussing the language policy said African masses have
been excluded from participation in nation building because of the
languages used by the colonialists. "We are getting renewed optimism on
the use of African languages. We now have evidence that the use of African
languages leads to quality education. This policy is informed by facts,
data and evidence," said Adama Ouane, director of the Germany-based
UNESCO-Institute for Education.

The meeting, which gathered experts from 20 countries from across Africa
and Europe, discussed the pros and cons of using indigenous languages in
imparting education. "The issue of lack of competence is not a problem
anymore. For us to be part of the world`s technology, we have to develop
ourselves; Africa has been marginalized for a long time, we need to move
the way Asian nations are moving," Ouane said.

"To get out of our marginalisation, we have to do what has been done in
Asia," he told a closing press closing conference. Namibian Deputy
Education Minister, Becky Ndjoze-Ojo charged that Western colonial powers
have used African languages to plant animosity among African communities.
"We should empower the ministers of education to make the right decisions.
We must also make it clearly understood that what we are offering is a
replacement for colonialism, we are offering bilingualism, we have seen
that the extra-costs can be carried along," Ndjoze-Ojo said.

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