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It is time to teach other local languages – The time for tribal bigotry is over

KGOSIETSILE NGAKAAGAE
The announcement, by His Excellency, that Swahili has been introduced in the curriculum (whatever curriculum that is), has raised the ire of ethnic groups whose languages are not, as it is, being taught in schools.

 They have a point. Swahili, is not useful to us, as Batswana. It is nothing, but a pretence by African kleptocrats, to be seen to be doing something for Africa. If Swahili is any useful, as a unifying language, the leaders must model it along the likes of Alliance Francaise, and it must be an AU project. The only money we have left, as a  country, is for beneficial education, not some fake Pan African agenda. Fair enough, it is important to those who speak it, just as Setswana is important to me. We have languages currently being taught in our schools, the essence of which, is to enable us to partake in global discourse, and commerce. It is enough, that we have English, French, and that we are by reason of trade, embracing Mandarin. That is enough. Everyone who wants to learn any further foreign language, can do so at own cost.

The problem is that the African Union, is a useless organisation. Instead of being concerned with the political and economic prosperity of the continent, they are obsessed with stoking, dishonest, pan African sentiments. Africa’s challenges include, but are not limited to, poverty, hunger, disease, slavery, terrorism, corruption, political repression, wars, and gender justice. That’s what they are supposed to be focused on. They are the cause of most of these problems, after all.

So, I am against the introduction of Swahili. It is a waste of our time, and money. All the Swahili-speaking countries under reference are either Francophone or Anglophone. We have no need for a third, foreign  language, unless same helps us to cure our problems as Africans.

 Well, perhaps one might desire to learn it for what it is worth, even if it is to go into the Guinness Book of Records, for speaking the most languages.  But I do not see why government, should be involved. Such initiatives, are best left to private schools, and universities, which might see value in them. As a nation, we have more vexing issues to attend to, including falling standards in the educating sector. We are yet to introduce multiple pathways of learning in our education system. We are yet to deal with the teacher, student ratio. Can we really afford such a luxury? I have been to Swahili speaking countries, and I have trained with Swahili speaking students, from East Africa. We spoke English, and we were fine with that.

We should not be talking about Swahili, at all. We should be talking about the promotion of local languages. A language, is a repository of

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a people’s culture. Same might not have any commercial value, but it is a part of their identity. It is a tool with which, they express themselves, relate to each other, and to their environment. In the courts, where I work, the state is constitutionally obligated to provide all accused persons with an interpreter, in order that they may be able to defend themselves in a language of their choice, at no cost to them. It does not matter, whether they are accused of stealing chicken, or committing treason. Extending such an opportunity to learn same, cannot be too much asking.

 Indeed, asking that a language should become a medium of instruction, may lead to serious challenges, regard being had to the plethora of languages in our country. I doubt that it would be practicable, in all honesty. But the opportunity to learn one’s mother tongue, as distinct to learning in it, is perfectly practicable, and I see no complications with it. And the opportunity to ensure the development of languages is a welcome celebration of our diversity, and nationhood.

We missed it all when we refused to liberalise the airwaves, and denied people the opportunity to celebrate their cultures, in the process. Allow for radio stations, government or private, and programs that broadcast in all local languages. That is part of the learning process. Inclusivity is key to nation building. Why cant we have RB3, or better still, community radio stations, that acknowledge the diversity of our languages, as a nation? Why cant we benchmark, for example, with South Africa on how they handle their languages challenges, as a nation? Why cant we have Matsha Secondary, teach Sekgalagari, for example, and McConnel College, teach Ikalanga, as a subject. It does not have to start at primary school. But then, I am not a language policy expert. I believe that we are eminently capacitated, in that regard.

 Our University of Botswana, has tons of experts in that regard.

Our problem, is generally, a reluctance on the party of our politicians to rock the boat, by offending the sentiments of tribal bigots. They simply don’t have the testicular fortitude to confront tribal bigotry, because many of the purveyors thereof, are traditional chiefs, and have influence over their constituencies. Languages are being sacrificed on the altar of political expediency.

Its high-time we all accept, that Botswana is bigger than Tswana speaking tribes, of which I am a part. My first language is Setswana, but I sure do not like what is happening.  Tribal bigotry is antithetic to nation building.



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