Rwanda: English Language Issue in Rwanda - an Educational, Globalisation and Economic Development Trend

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Wed Nov 12 21:04:52 UTC 2008

Rwanda: English Language Issue in Rwanda - an Educational,
Globalisation and Economic Development Trend

The New Times (Kigali)

11 November 2008
Posted to the web 11 November 2008

Dr. Eugene Ndabaga

Our goods have to go through two or more countries before they come to
Rwanda. And all these countries; Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda speak
So, the use of English as a medium of instruction is just an excellent
calculated move in the right direction. It is absolutely necessary
that poor as we are, our administration, management and workers fully
understand international and economic needs, views, attitudes and
preferences of today.

This is particularly important if we were to improve on our business
concerns, where English language is multi-dimensional. Look at things
like Internet; it is all founded in English.

Learning in English language would avoid producing half-baked
graduates who cannot compete internationally. There is a need to work
and communicate with the rest of the world. The economy today is
knowledge-based aiming at exporting skills in terms of human resource.

It is clear from these arguments that knowledge and economic
development should be separated from linguistic emotions and
sensational tendencies that are typical of French Assimilation system.

Rwandans are looking forward to overcoming those bad days by working
with other nations-the trend even stronger nations are advocating.

Banyarwanda have it that; 'Imfubyi ibaga yotsa'. The implication is
that an orphan, as a symbol of poverty and helplessness, should use
the little opportunity s/he gets since s/he does not have many of
them-and so are Rwandans today, they have to use the chance of
economic liberalisation around the world by working with stronger
nations by concentrating on WHAT and HOW strong Nations are doing.

The Guardian newspaper's survey (2002), too, clearly shows the
unstoppable capacity of English language today. It reported that two
thirds of French people are now acknowledging the superior usefulness
of English.

The paper argues that the high point of Anglo-American linguistic
hegemony was the Voyager space probe with its message of 'peace and
goodwill' for the people of outer space.

In order to reduce Rwanda's poverty and high rate of unemployment, the
Rwandan government has to seriously work with other nations that have
credibility in development by sharing ideas.

What the government of Rwanda should concentrate on is to ensure that
its education system and training are adequate for economic challenges
it is facing.

Here the up-to-date information about development in other countries
becomes important because it enables policy makers and others to be
kept informed about how other countries are dealing with similar
issues, such as linguistic concerns.

Arguably, when one looks at the tremendous developments that Rwanda
has achieved through international cooporations, such as DFID from
Britain, frankly speaking, it is all attributed to Rwanda's new
relationship with the outside world from which it had been closed for
a long time due to myopic politics before 1994.

For some Rwandans, while French is for emotional and sensational
satisfaction, English is for survival. If Rwanda does not respond to
global demands so as to keep up with world views and modernity,
Rwandans will be left with a more or less self-regulating government
that simply creates a world in its own image as the government becomes
less and less able to sustain the regulatory and social welfare

Language policy is part of educational policy, which is itself
determined by the overall societal goals of the community in question.
If there is one set of skills that all global citizens ought to
possess, it is to communicate and have a minimum linguistic command in
a language which is widely spoken by many people.

The part played by the scientific community in the dissemination of
information and knowledge-for which young people are hungry through
English language, is irresistible.

Scientific endeavour transcends national boundaries, and scientific
communication has fastened on English as the most developed and
capable medium for the transmission of new ideas.

A Guardian newspaper survey (2002) reported that: more than half of
the world's scientific journals are in English. Hand-in-hand with
science, the massive impact of the Internet has been unimaginably
important. 80% of home pages on the web are in English, compared to
4.5% German and 3.1% Japanese.

The worldwide web and the Internet are post-national, if anything is.
Commodities such as Coca-cola, burgers, MTV, World Cup football, the
Olympics and funerals of royals like the Princes of Wales are no
longer exclusive to one nation.

This whole panoply of consumer-targeted and monopoly-ridden material
is nothing else but what I may baptise 'the infotainment telesector'.

In an nut shell, like it or not, the instrumental appeal for English
language today far outweighs the negative factors associated with it
and the pragmatic recognition of what it can offer to Rwandans, is
evident in the steady increasing demand for it.

Relevant Links

Central Africa

Even higher institutions of learning are becoming aware of this fact.
The former traditionally strong Afrikaans University of Stellenbosch
in South Africa is a case in point. It is becoming more affirmatively
dual-medium-WHY NOT, IF NOT, FOR RWANDA?

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