"South Africa’s Public education system is in serious decline. Reports of dismal graduation rates, bad teachers and crumbling buildings are commonplace. In Eastern Cape Province, one of the poorest regions in the country, the public system there is in chaos."
Despite both national and international focus on literacy and education in Africa, in part driven by the soon-to-expire Millennium Development Goals, the resulting programmes and policies are all too often delivered in the languages of former colonial powers - particularly English, French and Portuguese - at the cost of excluding the majority and those most in need. “No country can make progress on the basis of a borrowed language, understood only by a minority,” says Prah, “Only ten per cent of African people can speak French, Portuguese or English fluently. These languages cannot be the only languages of African development.”
The problem is not merely one of shaking off the remnants of the past, but of convincing those within every level of African society that undermining the status of African languages serves the interests of no one. “It’s not just a question of Western arrogance,” explains Prah, “but also of African complicity. The cultural power of the African elite is based on the fact that they are proficient users of post-colonial languages. They instil a new colonial order which excludes the majority from the structures of power.”
"Some African languages are spoken by fifty or sixty million people. It makes economic sense to develop products for this market, by this market." If we continue to pretend that African languages are unimportant in the drive to achieve ‘education for all’, says Prah, "we will forever be waiting for 90% of Africans to become English!"
Professor Kwesi Kwaa Prah, founder of The Centre for Advanced Studies of African Society, speaks about the importance of cultivating and sustaining broader uses of African languages as a tool for development around the continent, and in breaking down the imposed barriers created through the maintained hierarchy of colonial languages.
Professor Prah also stressed that the need for this kind of fundamental change needs to start with policy makers on the continent who themselves are also victims of the entrapments laid about by colonial language systems that saw African languages as inferior.
…he suggests that even those in positions of power are allowing themselves to be limited by the same colonial hierarchies of the past. “They are second-hand users of these cultures. Therefore, they are actually positioning themselves as inferiors. This can lead to a bottle-neck of tension that can explode.”
…Prah points to Vietnam and their Southeast Asian neighbours Malaysia and Indonesia. “Vietnam is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. They stopped using the language of their French colonisers: this is precisely why they are succeeding.”
Original article written by Alicia Mitchell.
“It is hard to imagine efficiency, effectiveness and quality in education developing under these circumstances. The quality of education therefore needs to be improved at the primary and secondary level so that the system prepares individuals for the demands of higher education,” read the Education for All 2013 Country Progress Report.
Earlier this year, five Peace Corps Volunteers from the central highlands region of Madagascar gathered in the nation’s capital of Antananarivo to facilitate a weeklong GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) camp for young female leaders from their respective towns. The five Agriculture Volunteers selected four young women each from their respective communities, ages of 13-16, along with an adult chaperone to attend the camp. The aim was to equip young Malagasy women, who show potential for leadership, with the necessary skills to make healthy life choices as well as advance their personal, professional and academic goals.
Just a couple of pictures of some ritual clothing that young females wear in some parts of Africa. Different clothing signifies different styles in different tribes, doing some of these rituals and wearing the clothing to some tribes is more important then getting an education.
Fisher, Angela, and Carol Beckwith. African Ceremonies: Volume 1. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1999. Print.