“I have not said anywhere that I will ban the use of English in schools,” Bwanika wrote on his personal website.
While addressing a rally in Gombe Town in Butambala District a week back, Bwanika was quoted saying: “I will ban English in our schools’ curriculum and in all government offices as a remedy for easy communication among our communities.”
He said his government will promote the use of local languages in schools and when delivering official statements and speeches.
The candidate further threatened that teachers who cane pupils for speaking local languages risked dismissal should he take power.
“Teachers should stop giving corporal punishments to students who try to promote their local languages. Why are you promoting neo-colonialism?” he is quoted as saying.
“What I said, and it is stated in PDP’s Manifesto,” Bwanika writes, “is that we shall promote the use of indigenous languages”.
“We shall encourage indigenous languages in lower classes as a means of improving the capacity for our students to think and innovate, and as a way of preserving cultural values; and allow their use at local government meetings.”
He said that a local councillor should be allowed liberty to use the language they understand better even if it is a local language.
According to him, English is not a language of development.
“South Africa, for example, has more than English as official language.”
The remarks attracted criticism among academic circles and social media enthusiasts.
Martha Leah Nangalama, a Ugandan critic based in Moncton, Canada, says to eliminate English is to impoverish Ugandans.
She said in 2013, the failure rate in Bugisu on PLE [Primary Leaving Exams] was very high and it was found out that in Magale area in Bugisu, kids had been taught in Mumasaba but the National Exams were in English.
“In 2014 my friends and I set up something to tutor kids Sunday afternoon in Bududa and Mbale to help them prepare for PLE. We go by the name #TeamExcelPLE. Saying that people have to learn in their tribal language then giving them life deciding National Exams in English is simply Sectarian meant to fail some tribes.”
She says until Uganda chooses one tribal language to enforce on the whole country (and good luck with that), all instruction at school shall be in English and the mother tongue for P1-P3.
She says Uganda now “belongs to China, India and Pakistan” because when children graduate from universities, they get shipped into modern slavery.
“Never underestimate the value of education. It is the thin line between slavery and independence. Anyone who says you do not need English is a liar.”