Education
African scholars still enslaved, says Ngugi
Publish Date: Jul 01, 2013
African scholars still enslaved, says Ngugi
Ngugi (left) greeting education minister Jessica Alupo during celebrations to mark 50 years of Makerere University on Saturday. Right is Prof. Apolo Nsibambi, the former Prime Minister. FULL SPEECH AT BOTTOM.
  • mail
  • img
newvision

By Francis Kagolo   
 
African languages and cultures are likely to die because scholars have abandoned their call and remained intellectually enslaved to the western world, renowned Kenyan novelist Prof. Ngugi wa Thiong’o has said.
 
Ngugi said African scholars have let down the continent by failing to publish in native languages, which is detrimental to social transformation and economic development.
 
He made the remarks during celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the University of East Africa on Saturday. 
The celebrations, which attracted scholars from across East Africa, were a continuation of Makerere University’s 90-year anniversary.    
 
Ngugi condemned scholars, who claim to be specialists of African history, culture, society and politics, without accepting the linguistic challenge and the responsibility. 
 
He said it was a sign of backwardness that knowledge about Africa continues to be filtered through European languages and their vocabulary as was invented at the beginning of colonialism.  
 
“If you know all the languages of the world and you don’t know your mother tongue or the language of the culture of the community into which you are born, that is enslavement,” he said. “But if you know your language and add to it all the languages of the world, that is empowerment. The choice for us is between intellectual enslavement and intellectual empowerment.”
 
Ngugi dismissed claims that African languages are incapable of handling complexities of social thought because they lack adequate vocabulary and are riddled with poverty like their speakers. 
 
Ngugi, the author of popular plays like I will marry when I want, argued that no language had a monopoly of cognitive vocabulary and that every language could develop its terms for science and technology. 
 
“Even English and French had to overcome similar claims of inadequacy as vehicles for philosophy and scientific thought against the then dominant Latin,” he explained. “African intellectuals must do for their languages and cultures what all other intellectuals in history have done for theirs.”
 
Ngugi advocated for enlightened national policies that focus primarily on strengthening mother tongues, Kiswahili as the regional language then English and any other international language.  
 
According to Ngugi, English and French should be used to enable dialogue among African languages and visibility in the community of world languages instead of being a tool of disabling by uprooting intellectuals and their production from their original language base.
 
The University of East Africa, which started on June 28, 1963, was formally dissolved on July 1, 1970, transforming into the three national universities: Makerere, Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam. 
 
President Yoweri Museveni was among the seven graduates of the University of East Africa, who received awards as distinguished alumni for significant contribution to society.
 
Former education minister Geraldine Namirembe Bitamazire and former Makerere University vice-chancellor Prof. Livingstone Luboobi also received awards among other alumni. 
 
Environment minister Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu, who represented the President, launched  former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere’s book titled: Women’s Freedoms- Women are Eagles, not Chickens.
 
Nyerere wrote the manuscript of the book in Kiswahili in 1944, when he was 22 years old and still a student at Makerere. Makerere’s professor Ruth Mukama translated the book into English.
 
Nyerere’s son Charles Makongoro said the proceeds from the sale of the book will go into Makerere’s female scholarship programme to enable needy girls across Africa go to university.

Prof Ngugi Wa Thiongo Keynote Address Sat 29th June 2013 by The New Vision

The statements, comments, or opinions expressed through the use of New Vision Online are those of their respective authors, who are solely responsible for them, and do not necessarily represent the views held by the staff and management of New Vision Online.

New Vision Online reserves the right to moderate, publish or delete a post without warning or consultation with the author.Find out why we moderate comments. For any questions please contact digital@newvision.co.ug

  • mail
  • img
blog comments powered by Disqus
Also In This Section
‘Help students choose careers of their interest’
Inadequate counseling and career guidance services in schools has been pointed out as a big problem hindering learners from pursuing their careers....
85% of Ugandan primary teachers want to quit
Only 16% of primary teachers in government schools aspire to remain in the profession over the next two years....
Constant teasing at school forces disabled boy to quit
He tailed in class performances, his teacher beat him frequently and his fellow classmates regularly laughed at him....
LDC: investigating high failure rates at the law school
The probe is on high failure rates of students admitted for the postgraduate bar course at the Law Development Centre....
A’level result slips for 2013 ready - UNEB
Result slips for last year’s Senior Six examinations are ready for collection at the UNEB head office in Kampala....
Are government student loans worth it?
The long-awaited student loan scheme is finally working, after a decade of waiting....
Do you agree with the ban on the export of maids?
Yes
No
Can't Say
follow us
subscribe to our news letter