The effect of Nyanja as a Language of initial literacy in a predominantly Tumbuka-speaking area : The case of Lumezi area in Lundazi Distict
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The main aim of the research was to find out the effects of using Nyanja as a language of initial literacy in a predominantly Tumbuka-speaking area, namely, in Lundazi rural schools. The general public in Lundazi rural areas claimed that although Nyanja was used as a medium for teaching initial literacy skills in Grade One, it was not spoken by pupils and the majority of them understood very little of it. They said that children learnt these skills with great difficulties when Nyanja was used to teach them. Despite the above complaints, the Zambian Government still maintains that the official regional language, Nyanja, is a familiar language in the whole Eastern Province. Consequently, the Government minks that Nyanja quickens or eases the learning of initial literacy skills. The Government feels Nyanja improves the acquisition of skills where English had very poor results. In reaction to the Government's insistence on using Nyanja during literacy lessons in Lundazi District, many people interviewed said that since 2002 when Nyanja was introduced as a medium for teaching literacy lessons, it had not brought any recognisable improvements in the way Grade One pupils learnt them. Subsequently, they wondered why it should continue to be promoted in the rural areas. Due to these opposing views between the Government and the local people on the language of instruction in literacy lessons, it was necessary to carry out a study to investigate whether it is true mat Nyanja quickens and eases the learning of initial literacy skills in Lundazi rural schools since it was introduced to Grade One classes. The data was collected using questionnaires, guided interviews, checking pupils' books, lesson observations and assessment results in bom districts. Other methods which were used to collect data were introspection and reading books. Lundazi, where pupils speak Tumbuka, was the experiment while Katete, a predominantly Chewa-speaking district, was the control. Chewa was chosen because it is a dialect of Nyanja and that the Chewa people speak and understand Nyanja very well. On the other hand, Tumbuka is not a dialect of Nyanja for Tumbuka-speaking pupils to know it. The findings from respondents in Lundazi rural schools indicated that many Tumbuka-speaking pupils faced problems in understanding Nyanja. The pupils made a lot of errors whenever they tried to read, speak or write it. Meanwhile, pupils in Katete, including Tumbuka-speakers, got generally good results in initial literacy exercises. Therefore, it was concluded that the difficulties that pupils faced in Lundazi contributed to the poor results they got in initial literacy lessons. In order to counter thse negative effects, it was recommended that for learning initial literacy skills in Grade One, pupils in Lundazi rural schools should use Tumbuka. This agrees with Benjamin Lee Whorf s theory of linguistic relativity which says that thought and language depend on each other. Consequently, teaching must be conducted in known languages (Tauris and Wade, 1993).