Please allow me to use your widely read newspaper in introducing the caption ‘lessons from Ghana’ and perchance stimulate a constructive national submission and healthy debate amongst Gambians.
Fellow Gambians, in our drive towards nation building, socio-economic and cultural development, I wish to join the numerous Gambians, who are of the view that, as a nation, we should not only be speaking, but also able to read and write in our local languages. As citizens, our ability to read and write in our own local language would be a giant stride towards meaningful socio-economic development and nation building. I am of the view that when a nation develops ways and means of teaching its citizens how to read and write their vernacular or a lingua franca, it empowers those citizens with relevant knowledge of both the linguistic, culture and national heritage. It thus, imbued socio-cultural pride, nationhood and sense of belonging. Consequently, that would not only enhance social awareness and enlightenment but also offer an opportunity to consider introducing vernacular in our National Assembly and other government departments for civic interest, comprehension and collective participation.
Lessons on how to initiate the paradigm, structure and introduce the teaching and learning of Gambian local languages such as Mandinka, Wollof, Fulla and others can be learned from the Republic of Ghana, where such programs have long been in existence. Many Ghanaians are able to not only speak but also read and write in at least one of the major languages of their region that they come from. The Government can launch a national think thank task force headed by the Ministry of Education to perspicuously pilot this project in a few or all the Regions. We can say for example make at least, the dominant or ‘all’ the local language/s in each Region a compulsory subject/s in all government Schools from primary to junior Secondary and then optional at Senior Secondary level, just a suggestion. If my memory serves me well, in Ghana it used to be from primary all the way to Form 3 in Secondary (what Gambia called High) School in those days. Once students got to Form 3 then they specialise into Arts, Science or Business (Commerce in Gambia).
I am of the firm belief and conviction that, the Primary School should be the de factor guinea pigs for any meaningful introduction of Gambian languages into our teaching and learning (educational) curriculum. On that note, I throw the bone of contention and declare the floor open.
Alh Yahya Ceesay