Saturday, June 14, 2014
“Never make fun of someone who speaks broken English. It means they know another language.” — H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
When this country became independent, its leader, Julius Nyerere, decreed that Kiswahili (Swahili) would be the first, national language tying together the 120 or so tribes and eliminating the inter-tribal violence that has plagued almost every African country—and in that sense it worked, there has never been a war here. One of the common sayings is, “Hakuna matitizo, hakuna haraka, hakuna vita” or no problems, no hurry, no war. English became the second national language and the language of the government such that every university graduate can speak English very well. However, with the emphasis on Swahili in the primary grades, most of the teachers can neither speak nor teach English. Sadly, to move from the primary grades to secondary, you must pass a national test in English. The same thing happens again when moving from secondary to university—a test in English. While almost every government official speaks Swahili primarily, each can also speak English, so failing to teach English in the lower grades prevents those children from secondary and higher education and all the very good and well-paying jobs. The first thing Karen did when she came here was to establish a school to teach kids in primary grades how to speak, read, and write English. She was well-qualified to do so, having spent over a decade teaching English as a second language to the Hispanic and Marshallese children of northwest Arkansas. The techniques and methods she used there, she could use here and did and does. You can Google “Starfall” and see for yourself how and what she is teaching—and it works. She has had an English class every year for nine years and the graduates of her one-year class have all done very well on their national English tests. In just three months, they can read, speak, write, and sing in English. The preschools we are starting also teach English, but it is more memorization—which still helps later on. Starfall has some new teaching tools that use iPads and are very, very good. So, we need some first generation iPads. If we can just get as many as ten, we can use them in seven schools. Surely, you know someone who has the latest iPad with that old first one gathering dust somewhere. We could put it to good use and you could deduct its gift from your taxes. In the picture at the right, Karen is congratulating this year’s English graduates. There is a two-year waiting list for her class because she says she will not accept more than twenty students, but it seems like there are almost alway at least twenty-five in the class.