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close this bookThe Courier N 122 July - August 1990 - Dossier Tourism - Country Report: Mali (EC Courier, 1990, 104 p.)
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The Courier’s mailbag

On the subject of national languages

I have just read The Courier of Jan. - Feb. 1990 (No. 119) and found the Dossier National languages disturbing. Everything is disturbing, everything from the fact that our vernacular languages are disappearing to the question of which language to use in writing mother tongue or the colonial language.

I particularly liked the articles by A. Babs Fafunwa (Is a lingua franca possible in Nigeria?), Otto Manganau Nekitel (Languages in danger of disappearing: the case of Papua New Guinea)...

Babs Fafunwa maintains that there is little or no continuity between the African child’s home experience and his school experience. This is absolutely true. When I was in primary school, we passed round the “marker’,, that stick given to one unfortunate enough to say something in a language other than English. And because most of us, no, all of us, knew very little of this foreign language, we usually carried out our conversations in mime. And when it was time to go home, sighs of relief could be heard from all. We could now converse in Kiswahili. And, in the house’ we spoke in our mother tongues and Kiswahili. And this was not long ago either, it was in the ‘70s.

Fafunwa also suggests that a child’s mother tongue should be his medium of education for the first six years of his life. But what about those children from different ethnic tribes learning together in city schools? What if a class has 50 children from 50 tribes? What happens? Teach in the national language? Will not these children then be at a disadvantage compared to their rural counterparts? Anyway, here in Kenya’ I do not know whether it is possible to teach young people like secondary school pupils a vernacular language. Some people are ashamed of their own mother tongue. That is why I particularly liked the article about language disappearance in Papua New Guinea.

That article could well have been titled: “Languages in danger of disappearance: the case of Kenya “, substituting Abu’ with Kisii, Kamba, Dholuo, Nandi, etc. The reasons given as to why this Papua New Guinean language is disappearing, and the attitudes of the people - interethnic marriages, educated Abu’ans not being able to converse in Abu’, being shy and uncomfortable, afraid of being ridiculed by others all these reflect absolutely the situation in Kenya.

The issue of writing in mother tongues is sometimes discussed here and I think that it is not possible, at least not with my age group. The reason is simple: I doubt whether there is anyone in my age group in Kenya who can speak his mother tongue like does his or her grandmother or great grandmother. This is because we started our early education in the English and Kiswahili languages and know little about the sayings, rhythms and proverbs of our vernacular languages. Some of us are multilingual, with no thorough grasp of any one language. So how can we, even if we wanted to, write in the language of our forefathers?

When my age group was growing up, the story - telling tradition had died (or was in the process of dying). We saw our grandmothers very rarely because our fathers and mothers lived in the city, trying to earn a living. And we always conversed in Kiswahili in school.

Another thing. Here in Kenya, the more young people forget their native languages, the less tribalistic they become. Schoolchildren do not much care about which part of the country their friends come from. Of the knowledge of tribal languages I tend to think that revival would revive tribalism, nepotism, etc., too.

Beatrice Moraa, Nairobi, Kenya

Bravo to the EEC

In The Courier No 119 of January - February, 1990, the cooperation between ACP and EEC institutions and universities was X - rayed.

Let me take this opportunity to register my heart - felt gratitude anal deep appreciation to EEC for her wonderful gesture in initiating this humane co - operation.

In fact, the benefit accruing therefrom to the students and staff of University of Nigeria is tremendous. It has brought much joy and! comfort not only to the university, but also to - all Nigerian citizens. And in this respect) we say ‘Bravo’ to EEC.

I should add that The Courier enjoys wide readership in Nigeria because of the positive steps regularly taken by EEC to improve the deplorable conditions of most Third World countries.

Uba Aham, Nsukka, Nigeria

A weekly Courier?

“I learned c’ lot from Courier No 103, because I hadn’t before had such accurate and broad information on alley - cropping. It is this kind of information, on simple and appropriate agricultural practices, that should take up more space in the magazine. I wish that The Courier could be weekly. “

Kambale Sivaminya, Butembo, Zaire