• Tanzanian President Suluhu Hassan has ordered that secondary schools should teach in English
• Primary schools will continue to teach in Swahili
President Suluhu Hassan has ordered that English should become the medium of instruction in Tanzanian secondary schools.
Tanzanian children will still learn in Swahili in primary school so excellent Swahili will still provide their shared national identity. Extensive research also shows that children learn faster in their mother tongue so Tanzanians will still benefit from studying in Swahili in primary school.
However English has effectively become the lingua franca of global commerce and politics. Nations that do not speak English well, like Tanzania, are handicapped. Nations that speak English well, like India and the Scandinavian countries, benefit, take a lot of top jobs, and secure a greater share of foreign investment.
Suluhu's move is bound to get some resistance. Swahili is a widespread and wonderful language with a rich history. It is more than capable of dealing with any subject. But the truth is that a nation cuts itself off from the rest of today's world if its citizens do not speak good English.
Kenya and Uganda have both shown the way. It is possible to have both Swahili and English as national languages.
Tanzania is now finding the right balance.
Quote of the day: "Everything passes. Nobody gets anything for keeps. And that's how we've got to live."
The Japanese novelist was born on January 12, 1949