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Why English is not a real big issue in EAC

Discussion in 'International Forum' started by Invisible, Oct 12, 2010.

  1. Invisible

    Invisible Admin Staff Member

    Oct 12, 2010
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    Tuesday, 12 October 2010 16:26
    By Joseph Mtebe

    A second-year university student, Simon Patrick rose to speak at the International Students’ Week held recently at the University of Dar es Salaam. He said he was against the East African Common Market idea because most Tanzanians would find themselves “out of place”. His greatest fear: Their English is not up to the mark.

    “I am concerned that graduates from neighbouring countries have mastered the English language so well that Tanzanians, most of whom speak Swahili as their first language will find themselves out of place,” he said the UDSM’s Nkrumah Hall, sparking a lengthy English language debate among scholars at the function.

    As the five EAC partner states – Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi – move towards full integration after the ratification of the Common Market that paves the way for the free movement of goods and labour within the region, concerns have been raised at various forums over the social issues that stand in the way of fair competition between citizens of the partner states.

    Employment opportunities

    While the issues are many, the biggest fear among most Tanzanian youth is the different levels in education and the language barrier that is often said could hinder competition between citizens of the EA states.

    Tanzanian graduates say the fact that even though Swahili is also an official language in the EAC, the region seems to be gravitating to English more as the medium of communication, and this could work against them.

    They argue that this is likely to leave the majority of them disadvantaged when it comes to employment opportunities due to their lack of English language competence. And they are not alone.

    Some scholars and analysts argue that the adoption of English as the language of business will undoubtedly disadvantage many Tanzanians, as well as Rwandese and Burundians, leaving them behind while others progress.

    But also, the question that has often been asked is: To what extent are their fears justified?

    “I don’t believe language is a real big obstacle because one can still be employed whether or not they speak English well. Besides, in our case, Kiswahili stands a better chance of being the region’s formal language,” says Eliamoni Lyatuu, an economist with the Association of Tanzania Employers.

    He argues that English language fears have been exaggerated since many Tanzanian graduates can communicate in English, though they cannot express themselves well enough in the language.

    Shape up to the challenges

    A political science lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam, Bashiru Ally corroborates. He says the idea of unfair competition based on English language competence is “overstated”. He suggests that what Tanzanian graduates ought to do is shape up to the challenges of regional integration.

    “We are not confident in our culture, politics, and that is the result of our failure to transform our education system from its colonial nature that implanted an inferiority complex in us to something more beneficial,” he says.

    He adds that even graduates from the neighbouring countries, who are often deemed better, are raised under similar conditions and through the same education system. What they have, he says, is “only a comparative advantage”.

    A lawyer and consultant with Professional Approach, Abela Bateyunga notes that the fears among many young Tanzania is a result of misinformation and apparent lack of knowledge about the benefits of the EAC integration.

    “Most of them are afraid of the unknown. It appears no one knows for sure what to expect hence, and the problem is there is so much assuming, misinforming, and rumours going around,” he explains.

    Abela, who is also a member of the East African Youth Network, argues that these fears would not have been so deep if Tanzanian youth were informed about the entire concept of regional economic integration.

    “Information is power, sadly, most of our youth have been denied or deny themselves this power. They feel inferior and are afraid because they don’t understand this is a great opportunity for the region,” says Abela.

    “Honestly, I see nothing to be afraid of here. The fears are caused by propaganda spread by some people. What our youth need to welcome this development with both hands, and go out there to explore the opportunities presented by integration instead of focusing on their fears.”

    However, those who express fears over the English language barrier argue that the problem of language is real, and the fears among the youth are justified. If English will be the official language for East African Federation business, this does not look good for Tanzanian graduates whose lack of competence in the language is undoubtedly one of the biggest hurdles in their job search, even in their own country.

    The language barrier might not pose a very serious problem for Uganda, but it is also a challenge to Rwanda and Burundi. While Rwanda is steadily making the transition to a more bilingual nation, the same cannot be said for Burundi, whose language is French.

    Besides, according to Unesco Institute of Statistics, there are significant differences in the levels of education between the EA states with Kenya leading the region. Yet while the overall impression of education is good in comparison to other Sub-Saharan countries, the rate of unemployment in the regional economic powerhouse is also said to be higher, compared to other partner states like Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda.

    Analysts say this disparity in education between the nations is undoubtedly a problem for integration. They argue that a highly educated population with the added feature of free movement of persons will possibly stifle local graduates and entrepreneurs.

    Source: The Citizen
  2. Nyaralego

    Nyaralego JF-Expert Member

    Oct 12, 2010
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    Both English and Kiswahili should be part of the curriculum from Kindergarten. That way the new generation learn to speak both languages proficiently.
  3. Smatta

    Smatta JF-Expert Member

    Oct 13, 2010
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    Nchi za East Africa zafaa ku hakikisha wananchi wake wote hasa vijana wanajua lugha ambazo zinaongelewa sana kwenye nchi hizi zetu, pia wanafaa wa emphasize shuleni lugha ambayo itamsaidia Kijana kupata kazi kwenye hii competitive job market. hakuna haja ya kuzidi ku sambaza uvumi kuwa EAC haitomsaidia Mtanzania, sisi sote kama wana East Africa tuna wajibu waku hakikisha kuwa jumuiya hii inasonga mbele.

    Lugha ambayo inatumiwa sana maofisini ni Kingereza, as bad as this sounds we have no choice but to learn and perfect our English, unless you want your career to stagnate or you work in a dead end job. Lets be real, we need this jobs as bad as the next person, and the world being a global village, you need a language spoken widely so as to communicate easily with other professionals. Its not too late to learn or change our systems.