Well with the exception of parts of South Africa, the peaks of Kilimanjaro or the Atlas Mountains in North Africa. The point is the average African child knows not what snow or wool is.
Mary had a little lamb, it’s fleece is white as snow…..a nursery rhyme every English speaking African child memorized was nothing but a bunch of meaningless words shoved down the throats of confused kids with teachers who had no clue what they were teaching either.
In almost all nursery rhymes sung by kids, the meaning is lost to them, if in fact they assume the words to mean anything. Take the popular Baa, baa black sheep for example, how confusing will that be to an African child to ask a sheep if he as any wool? Not because we literally can’t talk to sheep, but because what wool is, is lost to him. Sheep in tropical regions don’t need to grow wool, a fact learned many years later. And to top off the confusion, one bag of wool is for a dame!
Who is a dame? What does it mean? The answers to that too come years after leaving school, if one is curious enough.
The realities in Africa are not reflected in the curriculum and children just plod along school corridors repeating words they have no clue as to what they could mean. The formative years, it will be safe to say, are lost to mumbo jumbo. A lot of the good grades scored in exams is attributed to memorization, what we call “cramming”. Literally copy the words in your mind and paste them to the relevant section on the exam paper.
If education has to be meaningful and topics of discussion well understood, then a lot needs to change at the very least. One would be tempted to call for a complete overhaul of the education system, but such ideas are fought repressively from conception.
This notion of redesigning the school curriculum across Africa to be more meaningful to Africans will be dismissed as impractical at this point from many Africans, especially the so-called intellectual class.
How about simpler issues like the national anthems of the various African nations? If these songs are to inspire patriotism and national pride in citizens, why then are they still in languages that a greater majority of citizens do not understand, the languages of the oppressors? In fact they do not know what a national anthem means. At the bare minimum, all that is required is a translation into some common dialect, but here too calls of tribal bias and ethnic favoritism are evoked to deter any such move. At some point, we just have to stop worrying about such issues and do right by our people collectively.
With the exception of a handful of southern African and East African nations and the North Africans, all national anthems, especially in West Africa are in French, English, or Portuguese. Even school children hardly pronounce the words rights talk less of understanding them, imagine then what the highly “illiterate” masses think of it.
A Ghanaian state minister once suggested exactly that; that the national anthem be changed from the English to native dialects to enhance the sense of nationalism. His suggestion was dismissed as having ethnic undertones. This is the sad reality of our situation.
African societies were traditionally set along ethnic and tribal lines, a fact that was disregarded by the Europeans. We were bundled into nation states with no regard to traditional values. Granted, it may be too late or even unwise to re-draw these national boundaries, but being stuck in this scenario or rejecting any of our local dialects in favor of foreign ones to avoid any kind of ethnic or tribal disenfranchisement is absurd. We are actively helping the killing of our own culture and values with such claims.
Children’s curiosity and thought process will be greatly enhanced if they are taught in languages they understand and use every day, even better if the learning environment is familiar with relatable characters and familiar sounding everyday things. That much we owe to the future generation. Strides are being made in this regard but there is still a great deal left to do.
As to what language to choose, that could be determined by a lot of factors such as lingua franca, or whatever language or tribe the majority belong to, or a combination of many languages. It won’t be easy to develop, but any great accomplishment is always worth the challenges they come with.
Compare the anthems of Africa’s two giants; South Africa and Nigeria and see which has a greater impact on you, even though you may not understand the South African languages used. The African sounding lyrics in them impact the heart more; and awaken that sense of pride more than Nigeria’s.
We need to start somewhere and the sooner the better.