Compulsory Chichewa language in Malawi schools is discriminatory

Sometime last year I wrote an article titled All Malawian languages are equal. I argued that government should not discriminate or marginalize any language and should make an effort to promote all languages. I further argued that there was no basis for government to maintain a policy that learners in primary and secondary schools should be learning Chichewa at the expense of other languages.  This move was introduced by Kamuzu Banda to suppress Tumbuka and other languages and that it should be discontinued in a democratic era. All languages are equal regardless of whether they are spoken by the majority or not.

Reading vowels and words in Chichewa

It is a huge surprise that the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology announced recently that it is making Chichewa a compulsory subject in the new secondary school curriculum. The Church of Central African Presbyterian Livingstonia Synod General Secretary Rev. Dr Levi Nyondo has condemned the move, saying no language was superior to the rest.

Nyondo has argued that there are a lot of languages and cultures in Malawi that need to be promoted and wondered why only Chichewa was being promoted. He has hit the nail on the head!

By making Chichewa a compulsory subject government is being insensitive and discriminatory to other language groups. There is no rationale or basis for choosing Chichewa to be a compulsory subject when there are more than 15 language in Malawi.  This time around other language groups are not taking this issue of Chichewa as compulsory subject lightly. Other ethnic groups are tired of suppression of their languages. A language is a vehicle through which people promote and learn about their cultural heritage such as beliefs, traditions, practices, proverbs etc. By learning in another language people are not only deprived of learning about themselves, but also killing their language.

The suppression of other languages to promote Chichewa has been going on for so many decades. But this time around other ethnic groups will not take it lightly.

Government should expect a backlash as other groups seek recognition and resist domination of one language group at the expense of other languages which are spoken by millions of people. For example, Yao and Tumbuka are spoken by millions of people. One is bound to ask why government only promotes Chichewa as if it is the only language in Malawi. Suffice to say that oneness of a country is not built by promoting one language, but promoting all the languages. There has be unity in diversity. For example, learners in the north should be learning in their own mother tongue: Tumbuka, Ngoni, Ngonde, Lambya, Tonga etc.  Of what value is Chichewa for a pupil in Embangweni in Mzimba or Kameme in Chitipa?

There has to be respect for other languages. Everyone should feel that they are part of Malawi and not to be treated like foreigners in their own country. The systematic suppression and discrimination of other languages should not be tolerated in a democratic Malawi. Kamuzu Banda deliberately promoted Chichewa and suppressed other languages because he was trying to build a Chewa empire. That time is gone. Government has an obligation to promote and recognize all languages.

Malawi need to borrow a leaf from other African countries where they have promoted all the languages equally. The best example is South Africa where all the languages are promoted. Learners learn in their own mother language. They have 11 official languages. Each ethnic group including the khoisan (bushmen) has its own radio station, 18 in all.

Unless the Ministry of Education removes Chichewa as a compulsory subject in the new syllabus, they should expect a backlash from other language groups. They should not be surprised if other language groups boycott Chichewa classes. People are saying enough to discrimination!

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Muje
Guest

Koma this writer akanadziwa,sakanalemba zimenezi.Coz backlash amayinenayo wailandila pompano.

chimseu
Guest

are you a Tonga or Tumbuka?? Your name is Mtonga and you want to promote chitumbuka pali nzeru apa?

cipiliro
Guest
cipiliro

Stupidity will not end in Malawi as some people think are educated enough to incite repulsion in some societies against chichewa. First thing the writer of this piece must know is that the MOE did not introduce chichewa with the aim of promoting it but for communication. If you can go through every decade results of NSO’s housing and population census since 1964 when Malawi got independence, will find that chichewa is widely understood and spoken by the majority of Malawians from Chitipa to Nsanje, Nkhotakota to Nchinji and was firstly introduced as official language for easy communication not for… Read more »

Francis majora kamanga
Guest
Francis majora kamanga

Do you promote a language because it’s spoken by many people? You are a brutal people. Come to south Africa and learn how languages are promoted. You are used to dictatorship. Chewa can spoken to those who wish to speak. You are using political influence to undermine freedoms of other languages. We are writing the letter to SADC and UN and au.

Melanie Weeda
Guest
Melanie Weeda

Actually South African students are in a lot of trouble for having lower education in their own languages. Most students – who didn’t have English lower education – drop out of higher education as the language barrier (together with the skewed representation of South African residents, but that’s a relic from apartheid) is just too much to deal with. Universities often offer their courses only in English: the language used in science worldwide. Having another language that’s more closely related to local languages compared to English actually sounds wonderful to me. As Chichewa is more relatable to many young people… Read more »

Angoni apaphata
Guest
Angoni apaphata

This is one reason Malawi can never develop. Supposedly enlightened, educated and intelligent people wasting time on crap. So they learn in tumbuka then secondary school progress in what yet you don’t want quota system. Mudzikaphunzira chitumbukacho ku Hhi kapena ku dedza secondary mukapita national secondary school kapena you will only be goingto tumbuka secondary schools. Myopic thinking. One national language and we move forward. Tanzania speak Swahili. You think they don’t have other languages there?

Nzika
Guest
Nzika

Kamuzu’s decision to nationalise Chichewa was not based on suppressing other languages, but rather that Chichewa is spoken nationwidebyall tribes. Unlike the other languages which are only spoken by a special ethinic group of people but not spoken and understood by other tribes. He used English that was translated in Chichewa in his rallies knowing fully well that those rallies were also attended by non-Chichewa speaking donors. Today, the president has chosen to use Chichewa to speak ill of the donors in their presence where they clap hands to their own castigation when they see people clapping. Insulting the donors… Read more »

joji wina
Guest

I think the writer of this article is either ignorant of the fact that Chichewa has not been promoted as a language through which children will be learning all the subjects or is deliberately trying to twist the issue out of mere jealousy. My understanding is that Chichewa just like English has been made a compulsory language (meaning that you cannot choose to leave chichewa as its the case with English). I strongly believe that for government to come up with idea , there were factors that were considered. we all know that Chichewa is spoken or understood by over… Read more »

Andsen Banda
Guest
Andsen Banda

I think the writer himself is a triblist because his bases for arguments are unfounded.In a country we have official and national language and here in Malawi we use English as official communication language and chichewa as a national language.It is a fact that chichewa is widely spoken in this country.I have moved from North to South and my observation has been that many people understand and speak chichewa.If you go to far south you will find people unable to speak chitumbuka but speak thier own language and chichewa too.So this writer being a northerner doesn’t surprise me that he… Read more »

Njolo mpilu
Guest
Njolo mpilu

lelo???

APM akundiyamwa shaft 🍆👅
Guest
APM akundiyamwa shaft 🍆👅

Kkkkkkk backlash ya kuti? Just sit down wasowa chonena iwe.