[lg policy] Rwanda: Shunning Kinyarwanda Lessons Is Wrong

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Wed Sep 24 16:49:25 UTC 2014

Rwanda: Shunning Kinyarwanda Lessons Is Wrong

By Paul Swaga

Recently, a certain colleague expressed to me his frustrations about the
negative attitude that several students have towards studying Kinyarwanda.
He told me that over the years, he has struggled to teach the subject which
many students especially those from top schools have little interest in. It
is shocking to see that some of our students have failed to realise the
reason why the education policy makers decided that Kinyarwanda should be
compulsory at both primary and high school levels in this country.

What are the causes and effects of the negative attitude towards the

I have taken some time trying to investigate the factors that seem to be
responsible for this unpleasant situation but many of them are ridiculous.

The colleague told me that there are certain students who keep telling him
that the language is local yet they have plans of studying from overseas in
future. They intend to go to countries like the USa, Canada and France.
This reasoning beats my understanding because as far as I know, the natives
of the western countries promote their local languages and they make sure
that whoever goes through the school system is able to read, write and
speak the mother tongue fluently. So, who are we to disrespect our
languages? Even if we choose to go to the western world, we still remain
Africans by descent and that is why we should feel proud of our values.

Some students claim to be proficient in Kinyarwanda basing on their ability
to speak it but being fluent in a language is not limited to just being
able to speak it. Fluency means that the user of a given language is able
to read and write in it, in addition to speaking it. There is no
justification whatsoever for some students to keep dodging Kinyarwanda
lessons yet the Britons, Americans and Australians who are native speakers
of English language still study it at school.

I believe that parents have a big role to play in encouraging their
children to attach value to learning Kinyarwanda. There are lots of
cultural norms that are reflected in the curriculum for Kinyarwanda
according to those who teach it. In addition to learning the grammar of the
subject, the learners are also taught how the Rwandans of different age
groups are expected to conduct themselves and the roles that the people of
each category are supposed to play in order to foster unity and mutual
respect. Most of our highly treasured customs are reflected in the local
languages that we use and that is why it is imperative for every individual
to leave high school when they have had enough exposure to the local
language in terms of understanding its grammar and norms.

It is wrong in my view for some parents to influence their children to
dislike learning the subject just because they have wonderful plans for
them. There is no 'wonder' that surpasses the beauty of one's own language.
Moreover, several job adverts in the newspapers indicate that the
applicants must be fluent in English Language and Kinyarwanda. Therefore,
the parents who do not encourage their children to study Kinyarwanda with
enthusiasm ruin their chances of getting jobs that require them to work
with local communities.

The irony is that many of the students who show little or no interest in
studying Kinyarwanda, do not participate actively in learning English
language. They claim to know it already basing on their ability to speak
it. If this problem is not checked, schools may continue producing young
people who lack masterly of both the local and foreign languages.

Language policy makers in this country need to look into this matter
seriously and come up with strategies and policies that can help to enforce
effective learning of Kinyarwanda, English language and French.


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