As part of the ongoing Practicum Programme for High School students, participants focused on Mother Language on 11 May 2016. After learning more about the official UN observance on Mother Languages, the participants dug deeper to learn more about the topic.
Considering that Namibia is a relatively small population, it is extraordinarily diverse in language and culture. More than 11 languages are spoken in Namibia with English as the official language. Language barriers has become a major problem due to the growing number of students who struggle to speak English.
This situation left the practicum students with the important question on how to tackle the deficits in the future and strengthen understanding. On Wednesday 11 May, the practicum participants engaged in a heated debate on the topic, with the central question being: “What if we were to implement mother tongue language in the Namibian education system?”
In order to come to a common understanding on this subject, practicum students held an open debate chaired by the National Information Officer. Students were divided into two groups, one for and one against the implementation. Preparatory time was allowed to assign three speakers and work on three key arguments. The debate started with both groups delivering moving arguments for and against the implementation of mother language in the Namibian education system.
The opening argument for the implementation of mother languages was that children are more likely to succeed in school if they were taught in their mother tongue. Followed by the point that parents may be more prepared to assist their children with homework if the homework was in their mother language. Lastly, the defenders emphasized the great potential the implementation would have to the preservation of local languages.
Arguments against the implementation of mother languages as the main language of instruction were that the costs of text books and finding the appropriate teachers would exceed the Education Fund, which could than lead to a rise of taxes or a decrease in teacher’s salaries. The opponents further added that the rate at which pupils were failing grade 10, adding a language would only increase the failing rate.
After both groups gave their persuasive points the audience were given the chance to ask or comment on the points given. They criticized that some of the arguments were based on assumptions which completely obliterated it. This made for a heated and interactive exercise, allowing everyone from the debate teams as well as the audience to participate.
Based on counter arguments, the group in favor of the implementation of mother languages won the debate. As a solution, the media team opted that it may be better for the mother languages to be taught as a second or choice language in primary school and might be a choice language in secondary school.
It was a fruitful discussion and demonstrated to the young people the important role they have in making their voices heard on matters that affect youth. They also realized the importance of consultation, and how everyone has different opinions. In making decisions at higher levels, they were given insight into how difficult decision making often can be, and that there is no one size fits all approach. The learning outcomes were clear in this interactive exercise.