“Their children go to good schools, they don’t even know how to speak Swahili.”
Someone close to me made that statement today and immediately my underlying culture mantra for this season of my life flashed through my mind. “To know your language and to know someone else’s is empowerment, to know someone else’s but to not know your own is enslavement.”(Ngugi wa Thiong’o) and I did not think them not knowing Swahili meant they were attending a good school.
The other day my brother and I were having a heated debate on the 8.4.4 vs the Cambridge system in Kenya. I loved the practical and student-friendly approach of the Cambridge system. In many ways Cambridge schools such as Brookhouse did not believe in the flawed opinion that the only way for kids to get stuff is by drilling them, treating them like mindless babies, having holiday tuition and adding some whips to the combo. The Cambridge system also allowed specialisation at an earlier stage and for my brother who hated Maths,but had to take it up to KCSE,favoured Cambridge for that.
I think there’s one thing Cambridge hasn’t beaten 8.4.4 at yet, 8.4.4 is our own language and someone else’s language combined.Cambridge is someone else’s for many reasons one of them being my younger sisters calling it a Summer holiday when it is raining cats and dogs but the one that surpasses them all is when my sister once complained about the disconnect she felt while studying and watching Shakespeare poems and the teacher pointed the class to the use of humour in a certain paragraph while her friends and she couldn’t find anything funny. Maybe Cambridge needs some contextualising but I know that will be hard to do…
I think if I was to choose, it would be a refined Cambridge teaching method but with 8.4.4 content because we need to know both languages. That said a good school is one where the children will be able to speak Kiswahili flawlessly and all the other languages: French, Music, Art…A better school would be one where children could even speak their ethnic languages.
Sometimes I think it doesn’t matter and am just making a big fuss…you know…”Wake up and smell globalisation, baby!” But for now I think empowerment and enslavement still exists and I choose the former.