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The language of instruction in Zanzibar

A couple of days ago, NPR had a story about a remarkable short film, "Present Tense," made by teens in the fishing village of Matemwe, in Zanzibar.

It was about the horrible educational bind they're in: having been educated in Swahili in primary school, they're expected to continue their education in English in secondary school. The courses are taught in English--but the students don't know English. Furthermore, neither do their teachers, as fluency in English isn't required of graduates from teachers college.

We cannot understand our exam papers

The teacher speaks English, but I don't understand what he speaks about.
This is our problem in the class: he must speak English, but the students don't understand.

The well water has a lot of bad things and salt. If I have a lot of education, I will change this situation ...
If I'm an engineer, I will build new and good wells.

The teens made the film with the help of a retired pilot, who submitted it to EYE Want Change, a British film festival with a social consciousness bent. Their film won first place--but even better, the government of Zanzibar announced a change in its education policy: although English will still be taught as a foreign language, the language of instruction in secondary school will be Swahili.


( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 28th, 2015 04:43 am (UTC)
Thank you.
Jun. 28th, 2015 12:58 pm (UTC)
Jun. 28th, 2015 04:48 am (UTC)
Wow! Thank you - for the film (which is terrific), and for the news of the change. The question of language of instruction is a really biting one; it's good to hear of the change in approach in Zanzibar.
Jun. 28th, 2015 12:59 pm (UTC)
You're welcome! I loved the story and want to share it widely. And yes, it's a very relevant issue for places all over.
Jun. 28th, 2015 05:54 am (UTC)
Wow. Thank you for sharing that.
Jun. 28th, 2015 01:00 pm (UTC)
My pleasure--thanks very much for reading!
Jun. 28th, 2015 06:35 am (UTC)
Yo soy un hombre sincero de donde crecen las palmas. I was born in 1962. It was then a British Protectorate so all senior civli servants teachers engineers town planner everybody who ruled spoke English and were educated in England. Either because they were sent from Britain or because they picked up locals for scholarships. The only exception was the first President of Zanzibar. He was a simple dow Captain a bit of a local thug but he took over after the revolution in 1964. Not sure if the world noticed. First thing they did was settle scores. Around 10,000 mainly arabs were murdered in around two weeks. You have to bury bodies quickly it's just off the equator nice sea breeze but you have to bury bodies quiickly. Nobody talks about those times. So then pretty much everyone who had a post under the British or the Government of the Sultan which took over from the British lost their jobs, and having being trained in Blighty they were taken early 60s back to the UK, but because it was a Western education USA, Canada, Australia and Europe.
As for education the main schools were German Nuns. The colonial fight in East Africa was between the British and German Empires until WWI. Traditionally it was German Nuns and Irish Missionaries who brought education and pretty much educated every African Communist Dictator of the last centruy. But they were asked to leave along with the previous rulers. I am of the opinion my ancestors had it coming but then if I said that of the Jews in Germany you'd start calling me names. And they didn't all leave and they didn't all have it coming.
Didn't take the Dow Captain long to lose sovereignty to the mainland Tanganika. Much cleverer man there University of Edinburgh. Not one shot fired. Pity but that's history for you. What we should have done instead of trying to have the biggest house with the biggest parties or the most holidays abroad instead of buying into the Western Dream. We should have gone back. Not to patronize but to work with. There was a chance. The only reason Zanzibar has any form of democratic government was because Zanzibarbarians fought for it and my Uncle was at the lead. But we didn't go back. He brought a small change which was all but overrriden. I heard a news report once of two English Teachers who had acid poured on them towards the end of their Gap year stay in Zanzibar. There are enough nasty people everywhere. Under Communism the free mission schools were kicked out and replaced by Communist party corruption. The mission schools were invited back. You can't keep making excuses because of hte past. But if you keep deliberately screwing over a people every generation what remains amazing is the reselience of humanity and the strength of evolutionary biology to cope with decades of insanity moderated by futile attempts to return to some kind of decency. You needed to have great courage till very recently to suggest that there was anything amiss with any government decision about anything. It was one of those places where they'd take a ten year old western educated brat to teach him a lesson if his Uncle didn't take out his revolver (coz everybody has a gun in Zanzibar main reason it was never actually invaded) and say you'll do so over the dead body of the Attorney General. It took a long time for me to realize how brave and foolish that old wise man was. How much I let him down. There is always a way to be good again. I remember another dispute about language when I was young it had to do with the change from Latin to the vernacular. And I could tell you of a lagoon one of the smaller islands.
Jun. 28th, 2015 01:55 pm (UTC)
Wow Des, so much truth and sadness here.

And they didn't all leave and they didn't all have it coming. --Yeah: in telling history, people love to go for the simple statement, the good guys and the bad guys, but really, the closer you look, the more you see that that mixture of generous and selfish, loving and hateful, truthful and deceitful--it's there from the largest conceptual human thing to our own hourly experiences (well: speaking for myself, anyway: I sure feel mixed in this way.

But if you keep deliberately screwing over a people every generation what remains amazing is the reselience of humanity and the strength of evolutionary biology to cope with decades of insanity moderated by futile attempts to return to some kind of decency. --Yeah: what makes my heart feel so full is people's indefatigable determination to get back to living, to enjoying cool nights, sunrises, births, jokes, a good meal. And at the same time, we keep wreaking havoc on one another, too. さすがに人類。That's humanity for you.

Okay, scrolling down to read about the lagoon.

Edited to add: Wait, the next comment is not about the lagoon! Well, share if you have the inclination.

Edited at 2015-06-28 01:57 pm (UTC)
Jun. 28th, 2015 06:35 am (UTC)
I know I ramble but I started so I'll end. Zanzibar is a huge archipelago. How people would save up food for months to give the visitors a treat and how ashamed I am only now of my reaction. There was torture and imprisonments and protests. And sell outs for what. If someone is going to sell out his people it really doesn't seem to matter what he wants. Humanity is also very disgusting. Huge ants and gynormous cockroaches. In another world I realize even if you can help and redeem one tiny part of this planet the rest won't leave you be. It has to happen everywhere. But still I'd want to sweep the evil away as much as possible so those I care about could live in shalom. It might last for a while. One thing horrible pedant that I am. The language is Kiswahili. Swahili are the people. Though for many they weren't taught kiswahili all that well either.
Jun. 28th, 2015 01:58 pm (UTC)
people would save up food for months to give the visitors a treat

I know. I'm always staggered when I think of that generosity. I fall so far short of that in my own life--I don't even know how to begin to aspire to it.
Jun. 28th, 2015 11:30 am (UTC)
Wow! That's so penpal!
Jun. 28th, 2015 12:08 pm (UTC)
Awful ending though. I was gonna follow that up with, I tells her you're the writer. I am waiting for the little kid to sing redemption songs, turn all robert marley, save the day and thus inspiring another generation of kids to believe in the power of the word and what does she do, she cops out with James Bond, not even the Sean Connery kind but Roger Moore. Not gonna do a spoiler, though poysonally I don't see you could with that ending, you know what happened. Time came few weeks of gastro-uirno-genitary problems, happens to every writer, and she blnked, she panicked. She lost faith. She didn't believe, not just in herself but in the whole, the story as cave of hibernatory redemption. but instead I am gonna go with, how dya mean exactly?
Jun. 28th, 2015 02:04 pm (UTC)
I know you'll never forgive me for that [spoiler], but it wasn't because I don't believe in happily ever afters, but because sometimes people suffer huge losses, and I wanted to face that.

And of course you know I had the story finished before I knew of *your* story, so the book is in no way a prediction or a judgment or anything like that. *Your* story, how it plays out--well, we know that truth is stranger, and more wonderful, than fiction. So keep the faith (I know you will)

--Anyway, I think the part that amaebi thought was like Pen Pal was the craziness of the language instruction situation, nothing more. (At least, that's all I was thinking was similar.)
Jun. 28th, 2015 01:59 pm (UTC)
I thought so too! Hence the "Pen Pal world" tag.
Jun. 28th, 2015 08:51 pm (UTC)
Duh. I didn't look at the tags: I usually don't. :D
Jun. 28th, 2015 08:51 pm (UTC)
So this counts as an independent observation!
Jun. 28th, 2015 09:52 pm (UTC)
Yussss! High fives :-)
Jun. 28th, 2015 11:39 pm (UTC)
:) ^5
Jun. 28th, 2015 01:57 pm (UTC)
That is so remarkably cool.
Jun. 28th, 2015 02:05 pm (UTC)
It's such an amazingly happy ending!
Jun. 29th, 2015 12:50 pm (UTC)
Terrific story. Thank you.
Jun. 29th, 2015 02:25 pm (UTC)
My pleasure. I loved the story.
Jun. 30th, 2015 10:01 pm (UTC)
That is wonderful! I'm glad getting a wider audience for their film helped the government finally listen to what I am sure the people had been saying all along.
Jul. 1st, 2015 07:56 pm (UTC)
Me too! So glad for the change in the language of instruction--don't set up barriers where there shouldn't be any!
Jul. 3rd, 2015 07:57 pm (UTC)
What a terrific outcome to their film. I wonder if they held out true hope that it would make a difference?

Those images of the village really look a lot like some places in Mayotte and Moheli.
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )

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