Our government has done it again! They have once again set out regulations that are impossible to follow. From the start of 2014 all schools (including private) in Zambia are suppose to start teaching in the local vernacular (grades 1-5). As much as I agree that it is important to preserve one’s mother tongue, it is not as straight forward in a country with 7 main languages and over 70 in total. Perhaps 50 years ago it would have been a lot different as people had not migrated within the country as much and each tribe had its area. But today people are many times living far from their birth place and the language chosen for the area may be one that they do not speak. Now take into consideration all none Zambians (many have been here for generations) that for the most part don’t speak any local vernacular whatsoever. So you start out with a class where some children are fluent in the particular language, some know a little and some don’t speak it at all. How would a teacher go about that situation? And if the teacher is say tonga, but is working in a bemba area? Must he/she move? And what about the litterature, the school material that is for the most part in English? Many questions need to be answered for this to be viable.
Yes, it’s important for a nation to preserve it’s diversity and identity, and the language is a big part of that. But this decision from the government feels rushed and not very well thought through. Hopefully we can work out a way where Zambians will learn English well enough to become global citizens and at the same time keep their tribal languages alive and part of a modern Zambia.