South African Journal of African Languages

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Mother-tongue education in primary schools in Malawi: From policy to implementation

Grace Chiuye, Themba Moyo


This article argues that it is one thing to pronounce language-in-education policy statements and yet another to implement such pronounced policies. In the context of Malawi, the language policy has remained fragmented since 1996 when five indigenous languages were elevated to the status of official languages alongside the existing official languages of ciCewa and English. KiNgonde was co-opted much later as another official indigenous language. The policy remains fragmented, and suffers from a lack of appropriate planning and logistics, and the government’s tardiness in effectively pronouncing and implementing the pronounced policy statements. For learners to succeed in higher education, where English normally becomes the instructional language, they need to have attained sufficient conceptual and cognitive grounding in their mother tongues to ensure a sound transfer from L1 to L2. In the absence of textbooks, teaching and learning materials in the pupils’ mother tongues, such developmental efforts are rendered hollow. Yet it is these learners on whom will fall the responsibility of future educational and political leadership to bring about social change in terms of linguistic balance and social justice. The conclusion makes suggestions with regard to the overdue production of textbooks, grammar books, dictionaries and teaching and learning materials to avoid the continued diglossic hegemony of ciCewa and English.

S.Afr.J.Afr.Lang.,2008, 2
AJOL African Journals Online