What you need to know:
- Conclusively, the language question is quite complex and the minister’s proposal to me is an open-air invite for academics and society at large to rethink this question. Perhaps we should colonise English!
Since colonial times, Ugandans were stripped of the pride of using their local languages. This was because institutions responsible for shaping the nation such as the education sector were so much engraved in inculcating a language that was foreign.
What is on general consensus is that language carries culture. Therefore, the evasion of a language is as well an evasion of culture. Reading Ngugi on this will elaborate clearly why in the first place, he actually proposed the abolition of the English department from Makerere University.
Ngugi Wa Thiongo like Gikandi Simon, understood that language was central in the very thinking, creativity, innovation, pride and growth of any nation. Not forgetting that language itself is a marker of human civility.
Therefore, by prioritising English language, we had no serious opportunity cost analysis!
However, it cannot be disputed that English is a lingua franc. By this, it is a language used by the whole wide world. It is almost everywhere for its imperial nature. English has always carried the cultures of the West and imposed them on the Africans to the extent that schools punish children for failing to master that imperial piece.
I will remind us of one issue raised by Simon Gikandi in ‘Maps of Englishness’. Gikandi reminded us of a time when cricket, an initially English oriented game which was imported to West Indies, was colonised by the West Indies.
By colonised, I mean that it was adapted to suit the needs and interests of the West Indies to the extent that the English people had to relearn the rules of cricket if they wanted to participate in that game! This was hilarious. It is to colonise that sphere!
Much as I hail the Minister of Education, Ms Janet Museveni on her proposal, she may be critiqued for being a nativist. Nonetheless, I concur with her that sciences should be taught in our native languages because these carry our culture, improve our thinking and innovation as much as symbolise our growth! However, much as I concur with that assertion, part of my reflections is, how do we harmonise the mixed contexts given the fact that we have a great mobility within the nation?
When Diawara Manthia proposed regional languages for efficiency, my concern still remains on whether those languages may not oppress the seemingly unpopular languages within such regions—a replication of the very nature of English!
Conclusively, the language question is quite complex and the minister’s proposal to me is an open-air invite for academics and society at large to rethink this question. Perhaps we should colonise English!
Lilian Caroline Namugenyi
Makerere Institute of Social Research-Junior PhD student