By Landing Ceesay
Three University students suggested the use of national languages at schools and other public institutions for better communication and productivity.
Modou Lamin Fadera, Binta D. Bojang, and Ismaila Jobarteh, all reading at the University of the Gambia, want the introduction of national languages at schools and other public institutions across the country. They argued that doing so will facilitate easier communication and increase productivity at the institutions.
First to suggest was Modou Lamin Fadera pursuing an undergraduate degree at UTG but with 4 years teaching experience under his belt already.
“Many students drop out from school and end up messing up in society because they failed exams. Sometimes it isn’t because they don’t know or they can’t pass but because they don’t understand the language (English) teachers used to examine them. Had it been, it was [our] national languages, most of those students will be able to pass the exams and eventually start pursuing their dreams. This will have a positive impact on the life of that student, the family, community and the country.
“I believe it will also increase the performance of students and also reduce the rate at which students dropped out of school because of failing exams. And finally, I would like us to ask ourselves these questions. Why is the Chinese government introducing the Chinese languages at the University of The Gambia? Why are the first world countries giving scholarships to African students, but it’s compulsory to learn their official languages?” Modou Lamin Fadera, an under-graduate degree student stated.
He continued that the use of national languages in schools and public institutions will not only ease communication, but will also foster interaction in class between teachers and students for better understanding of the topic of discussion.
“In communication between teacher and students, what’s important is understanding the message that he is putting to them. I therefore, believe that with the national languages the students will be able to understand what the teacher is trying to put to them. It will make the class interactive and students will be able to contribute during lessons, and they will be able to give a contemporary example because of the fluency in the national languages,” Fadera opined.
Modou Lamin, fondly referred to as ‘ML’, is convinced that the initiative will discourage the culture of silence of students whose contribution in class is as a result of their inability to express themselves in the English Language.
“It will also discourage the culture of silence in school. At times, a student will not understand what the teacher is explaining but because they won’t be able to express themselves in English. Therefore, decided to be quiet which will eventually have an effect on his performance. I’m very much optimistic that using national languages will have a positive impact on the lives of the students and the country at large,” ML concluded.
Another student in the penultimate year of her studies, Binta D. Bojang, welcomed the introduction of national languages in the University. She said it would strengthen socialization among students of different ethnic backgrounds but it will pave the way for a tribal free environment as well.
“It would make communication easier and prevent our native languages from ceasing. Let’s just say, nowadays, students cannot speak their native languages without putting two or more English [Language] words in their speech. Thereby making it seems [that] they cannot speak without that language. We are not saying, it [English Language] is not important, but it is not [as] our languages. It belongs to other people, though it is our official language. And most importantly, it would make the country produce more multilinguals which would not only add value to the development of individuals, but the nation at large,” Bojang stated.
The third year English language student said to break the shackles of language barrier in communication and for easier flow of information, introducing national languages at the UTG is a great initiative and urged all UTG students to embrace it wholeheartedly.
“Because our national languages are as significant as any other foreign languages. They are an integral part of our self-development as students of the highest institution of The Gambia. When we can learn other languages that sometimes have no relevance in our quest to development, then why not our national languages? These are languages we speak from birth; they are our mother tongue and we cannot allow them to be extinguished by foreign languages,” she stated.
A teacher and a final year UTG student, Ismaila Jobarteh, believes the socio-economic advancement of any society is tied to the ability of its people to clearly communicate.
“The socio-economic development of any society cannot be unmarried from the ability of the people to clearly communicate, and to be communicated to, about issues of relevance such as challenges that are faced by their societies as well as policies that could be made to mitigate them. There are several people out there that would wish to have their voices heard in making points concerning their well-being, and if they could just talk without thinking of the right English [Language] grammar or perfect diction, they could be providing us solutions that perfect English speakers have not been able to provide, so long the socio-economic advancement of this country is concerned,” he stated.
Jobarteh holds the view that a lot of students in the country cannot contribute during their various lessons not because they are not brilliant, but due to the language barrier.
“In schools, there are many mutes but brilliant students whose awesomeness is quickly spotted when they are given an opportunity to speak in [their] tongues [which] they are familiar with such as Mandinka. I have seen that over and over again in my six-year period of teaching. If people are free to speak the languages they are comfortable with in making points pertinent to the betterment of their lives and those around them, maybe we will start seeing a great deal of change in our country,” Ismaila observed.
The final year student at the University further suggested the use of national languages as a medium of instruction in the parliament; so that others who are not talking in that room probably because they cannot accurately translate their thoughts into the language of English can now do so.
However, a lecturer at the University does not support the suggestion of the students. He said it will take a long time to make it work given the different national languages in the country.
Meanwhile, the suggestion by the trio came shortly after the University of The Gambia had on 6th May validated the national languages curriculum to introduce the national languages as courses at the institute in future.
At the occasion, the Foroyaa Newspaper quoted as saying, Dr. Pierre Gomez, Deputy Vice Chancellor Academics:
“The university will lead the creation of Mandinka 101, Fula 101 and Wollof 101 etc. in the university curriculum and later expand linguistics in the school structures where people can write BA in local language in the Gambia.
“Yet we called ourselves independent and what type of independence is that, when you speak your own national language without knowing how your language is structured.”
The Churchill’s Town based newspaper also reported that Dr Abdul Karim Kamara, Dean of School of Arts and Sciences, said his department initiated the teaching of national languages in the school for the advancement of education in the country; saying, “If something is not done about it, it is going to have a negative impact on the generation to come.”