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The Four Fallacies of African Language Education, According to H Ekkehard Wolff

Language policy and the promotion of peaceH Ekkehard Wolff, contributor to Language policy and the promotion of peace: African and European case studies, has written a piece for the Mail & Guardian about dual-medium instruction.

Wolff takes issue with a recent article by Zimbabwean medical researcher Aceme Nyika, entitled “Mother Tongue as the Medium of Instruction at Developing-Country Universities in a Global Context”, which was published in the South African Journal of Science. According to Wolff, Nyika’s article falls prey to four common misconceptions around “the use of African languages in education beyond lower-primary school grades”.

These are: The ‘either-or’ fallacy; ‘The longer the better, the earlier the better’ fallacy; The ‘teaching content matter helps to acquire the language of instruction’ fallacy; and The ‘total immersion’ fallacy.

Read the article:

Universities in developing countries should foster the development of knowledge-driven economies by producing graduates who are competitive, not only in some provincial or national localities but also around the globe. Although the international use of English and French can be attributed to colonisation, spending scarce resources on efforts to replace colonial languages with vernacular languages, although politically plausible, may be at the expense of socioeconomic development.

This development is badly needed within previously disadvantaged populations, most of whom are trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty, resulting from inadequate education or skills and limited participation in national and global mainstream economic activities. This marginalising of millions of people in turn perpetuates poverty from generation to generation.

Nyika’s polemic against the introduction of African languages into secondary and tertiary education in Africa adds no new facts to the political pros and cons regarding the empowerment of indigenous African languages.

His article remains caught in a number of well-known misunderstandings about socio­linguistic and pedagogical facts.

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