The Observer (Kampala)

25 November 2012

Uganda: Mak Don Unhappy With Proposed Language Overhaul

Prof James Kigongo, a senior lecturer at Makerere University's department of Philosophy has decried the lapse in teaching local languages in favour of foreign ones, calling it a conceptual confusion.

The professor was speaking at celebrations marking the World Philosophy Day at Makerere University. They were held under the theme: 'Philosophical issues and the Future Generations in Africa.'

Kigongo's complaint follows running battles between the National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) and several civil society groups which believe the NCDC wants to eliminate teaching Luganda and Arabic in favour of Kiswahili and English.

"Our children's future is characterized by conceptual confusion because, on the one hand the government is talking about importance of culture and, on the other, appreciating external cultures more," Prof Kigongo said.

One challenge for local languages, the professor said, is that Ugandans speak English which is the national language. English is taught in the schools starting at entry level, yet Uganda is a multilingual country with over 40 indigenous languages.

There are fears that these languages will be suppressed as we embrace more of the foreign ones. Yet, even as early as 1967, Ugandan leaders like Dr Apollo Milton Obote were wary of the language problem.

"I want to say briefly that Uganda finds difficulties in identifying herself and that Uganda has a serious language problem. Our present policy as a government is to teach more and more English in schools. We are not unmindful of disadvantages inherent in this policy," Obote said in a speech.

But in 2007, in an effort to promote the learning of mother tongues, the ministry of Education and Sports introduced the thematic curriculum. Under this curriculum, pupils in primary one and two are taught in their mother tongues instead of English. The system seeks to develop basic language skills for lifelong learning. However, this has remained largely in the rural areas.

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