Prof. Ngugi: Drop English As Official Language


story geneva;”>The multiple native dialects, he said, when well harnessed can be transformed into an asset rather than economic hindrances.

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A study by academics at the Harvard University in May this year revealed that Uganda was the most ethnically mixed country in the world with over 40 different indigenous ethnic groups each with its own cultures, customs and language.

Such diversities have often times been highlighted as leading obstacles not only in ensuring smooth lines of communication in formal business especially by less literate young entrepreneurs, but also in government efforts to disseminate vital information to its people about polity, health and general economic development programs.

The founder and editor of Gikuyu language Journal “Mutiiri” noted that if there existed any linguistic huddle in Africa’s transformation, it is the adoption of western languages mainly English and French, forcing them on largely illiterate populations as official languages in which to transact formal business and be creative.

The scholar added that African languages are in themselves an asset to economic transformation but Africans have deliberately turned their backs on them.

“What we have today is a pool of world class scholars and writers who cannot compile half a page of a presentation in their native dialects.”

“I would compare our situation today to a person who struggles to complete a task with one hand when he has two hands” he said.

Ngugi gave an example of Makeree University department of Arts and crafts in the 1960’s [he was then a Bachelors student at the university] which used to import clay from foreign countries for its mounding classes; much to the bemusement of the audience.

He said: “in terms of natural resources, Africa is the wealthiest continent but its people cannot protect these resources. They cannot communicate in their mother tongues and neither can they in foreign dialects”

It is no wonder world super powers are taking advantage of us and so you have Chinese, Americans, Asians and everybody else all around in the name of investors when they are actually plundering our resources.”

The professor was on Saturday delivering a keynote speech at the cerebration of 50 years of the University of East Africa at Makerere entitled: “5O Years of education transformation and development: prospects for the future.”

“If you know all languages,” he said, “both indigenous and foreign, you are empowered; but if you know only foreign languages and not your mother tongue, you are a slave.”

He noted that his dream would be to come back to find a Uganda where English is no longer the official language.

Unto the rest of east Africa, he advised: “Lets adopt a single native language and make it official, then formalize Swahili as the second official language to unite all of us as east Africans and then English can come in as a third option.”


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