Educationists in Tanzania say English is a medium of destruction in schools

Posted on | november 10, 2011 | 1 Comment

Once again educationists in Tanzania have advised the Government to adopt Kiswahili as the medium of instruction in schools in order to improve the teaching-learning process.

Speaking at the British Council during the Policy Forum Breakfast on Friday last week was Richard Mabala, himself a former teacher and assistant lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam who said that this country is denying pupils and students the right to know by imposing English as the medium of instruction in schools.

Mabala is currently the executive director of an NGO which seeks for a participatory development approach based in Arusha, the Taasisi ya Maendeleo Shirikishi Arusha (TAMASHA), the topic of discussion was Contested Development: Social and Other Services Through the Eyes of Young People.

In his presentation titled: Youth for Change: Perspective on Education, Participation and Social Services, Mabala said that there are many things which can reduce the dissemination of knowledge to pupils and students. He mentioned those as scarcity of teachers, books, and desks these were quite enough to be mentioned as severe problems but added to those there are many other elements.

“I do thank that HakiElimu have been mentioning such problems in many of their researches and promos but indeed they contribute to the dismal performance in education in this country I see English as a medium of destruction and not instruction in Tanzania,” he said.

He was referring to an NGO which is dealing with equity and improved management in the education sector. He said that in many instances the youths lack a place in the community where they can inject their positive contributions through ideas and active performance.

“The health of young people is seriously affected by the environment in which they live; they are pushed in (commuter buses) ‘daladalas’ sexual harassments and domestic violence, all these have an ultimate effect in the lives of the youths.

Mabala suggested that in order to improve the dissemination of education the Government must look at the health of young people in a broader context; the efforts should start at homes, streets, and then schools and other working environment.

“A school must be defined in a technical aspect an not political one,” warned Mabala adding that of recent schools have been turned to elements of political boasts rather than maintaining the cognitive elements of what constitute of a school.

“The best way to improve education in Tanzania is through maintaining school standards, without maintaining these standards these are only buildings called schools, not schools. Kiswahili must be the medium of instruction, hardship allowances must be provided to teachers, use of computers must be encouraged, the youths must be involved as peer educators, and there must be youth centres to provide alternative education,” he concluded.

Supporting this stance was professor emeritus in education Prof. Justinian Galabawa one of the presenters who said that to a large extent the education model in Tanzania is elitist and Eurocentric. He charged that the fast developing nations of the world have been using their lingua franca and not foreign languages, he cited Japan, and Malaysia as examples to elucidate his stance.

The long term educator said that health and education are the major social capital of any country yet in Tanzania enough is not done to these sectors. For instance he was worried that poor management and overgeneralizations have led to destruction of some areas in Tanzania.

“When the colonialists termed some areas as Maasailand or Sukumaland it is because they knew that these areas have some unique qualities to be taken into consideration. For that matter education that is provided to the Maasai youths has contributed for their migration to the urban centres while they could have been maintained in their own location.

He reminded that in 1979 the Makweta Commission which was named after its chairman then minister for Education, Jackson Makweta came up with recommendations that Kiswahili should be used as the medium of instruction but the Government did not adhere to this technical advice.

As if the wave of Kiswahili supporters had no opponents the discussant in the occasion Ms Helima Mengele, coordinator of TENMET, said that the biggest part of the problems in the provision of education in Tanzania is the decentralization which does not guarantee proper monitoring in the utility of resources.

She was another supporter for the use of Kiswahili as the medium of instruction in Tanzanian schools. She advised that provision of essential services like education and health should be guided by well formulated policies and researches rather than their politicization.

“In a country which over 60 percent of its budget is obtained from development partners there is a need to have a closer monitoring of expenditures up to the village level, since there have been a lot of complaints in the local Government in the misuse of donor funds,” she said.

Contributing to the debate was Emmanuel Kamwi from Zambia who supported the use of Kiswahili by saying that even in Zambia there are efforts to transform the curriculum so that students will learn in their vernacular language after having detected that using English as a medium of instruction has created its own problems.

To close the debate was Humphrey Polepole who is the CEO of the Polepole Innovations (PI), who said that any learner centred approach teaching in Tanzania, will consider Kiswahili first before embarking to other languages due to its applicability in all spheres of life in this country.

AUTHOR: Elias Mhegera
E-MAIL: mhegeraelias [at]


One Response to “Educationists in Tanzania say English is a medium of destruction in schools”

  1. richard mabala
    november 11th, 2011 @ 05:06

    Thank you very much for publicising this but I would just like to correct one thing. I do not remember even mentioning HakiElimu which, as far as I am aware (and I am a founder member) also believes that Kiswahili should be the medium of instruction.

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