[lg policy] Malawi: Absence of mother tongue in education policy riles professor

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Fri Nov 9 15:04:52 UTC 2012

 Absence of mother tongue in education policy riles professor

    Thursday, 08 November 2012 08:30
    Sam Banda Jnr

Professor Pascal Kishindo has bemoaned the absence of the mother
tongue in education policy which he says has been in draft form for
the past 16 years.

Kishindo who works with University of Malawi's Centre for Language
Studies and is also vice chairman of the National Intangible Cultural
Heritage Committee said the country needs to improve in the promotion
of indigenous languages.

He said since 1996 when the government declared that children should
be taught in their mother tongues in standard one to four, nothing has
been really done to implement this policy.

"It is true, teachers may be teaching in mother tongues but there is
no enabling policy. The mother tongue in education policy has been in
draft form for the past 16 years," said Kishindo.

He said this is the same with the cultural and book policies which are
in a similar limbo adding that as a result, there are no textbooks or
reference material officially published in other languages.

Kishindo cited such languages as Chitumbuka, Chiyao or Chitonga which
do not have reference material to help those who are teaching/
learning in these languages.

He said institutions dedicated to the study of indigenous Malawian
languages such as the Centre for Language Studies are not funded and
do not have their own dedicated staff.

"Instead of supporting these institutions, the system asks these
institutions to generate their own funds. It looks like anything to do
with indigenous culture is never cultivated," said Kishindo.

He noted that language plays a crucial role in culture and that the
two are intertwined.

"Language is closely intertwined with culture because if culture is
said to be a way of life, and also is passed on from generation to
generation, this can only be done through language," he said.

He noted that culture is expressed through language whether in form of
songs, rituals and dances.

"A painting has meaning only when someone explains it in language.
Language itself is culture because the language represents culture.

For example, consider the simple expression like "Mayi" translated
into English as mother. Because of the different cultures these two
words express, their meanings are not identical," he said.

Kishindo, noted that in English mother is the biological mother
whereas in Chichewa, it can be the biological mother, any of your
biological mother's sisters, and from polygamous point of view, your
entire father's wives and any of your mothers' friends.

"So from the simple word here, you have all sorts of cultural
associations. Are we doing enough to promote indigenous Malawian
languages? The answer is no," he said.


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