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Daily Nation : February 15th 2014
SATURDAY NATION February 15, 2014 Readers corner Literary Discourse Tribalism will exist regardless of the names we choose BY FAITH KISIANGANI Mother tongue may not necessarily be an individu- al’s tribal language. It is that common language that a child first gets to interact with when growing up. It is easier for the child to interact in that language mainly because he is used to it. Recently, there has been a lot of discussion about the government’s policy to introduce mother tongue in primary schools. Most critics are against the idea, basing their argument on the rising tribalism in the country. The Saturday Nation (February 8, 2014) had an article titled ‘Teach Kiswahili not mother tongue’ which caught my eye. The writer was against the idea of the government policy. He also said the government should do away with tribal names so as to erase the vestiges of our country’s ethnicities. Kenyans need to understand that doing away with our mother tongue and tribal names will only make us lose our culture and identity but not curb tribalism. Tribalism and other forms of discrimination will still exist regardless of tribal names and mother tongue. As Kenyans, we ought to be grateful for the government’s policy. Mother tongue increases richness in language. For parents, I think the best inheritance you can give to your children is mother tongue. Failure to teach our children in mother tongue will lead to extinction of our local languages and the wealth of knowledge that comes with such languages. When a language disappears, the knowledge, diversity and cultures will also disappear. It will be better for a child to be taught in a language he understands until his mental capability develops for him/her to learn another language. When it comes to tribal names, let us look at those famous Africans who have embraced their tribal names as their identity; the likes of the famous actress Lupita Nyong’o, Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie and the super model Ajuma Nasenyana. Let us embrace our culture as it is a very valuable heritage that we should pass on to future generations. The writer is a student at Daystar University Nothing new in the academic debates BY MAKORIOS WAKOKO For a third year literature student, C.K. Rono writes well (Saturday Nation, February 8, 2014). The former President, Mwai Kibaki, visited the University of Nairobi recently, where he presented a paper on our country, Kenya. Later, a few members of the audience were given an opportunity to ask questions. The former president only responded to some questions and ignored the rest, especially those that were an indictment on his administration. To answer them would have been to acknowledge failure. He failed to appreciate criticism, perhaps? Therefore, to say that Prof Chris Wanjala does not appreciate criticism against him is a tad too abrasive. What more can a man do if he takes time to write a point-by-point response to all allegations levelled against him? Okhakhulelela akhupa bukumba (He who never helped you babysit, tells the world that you are barren) was Prof Wanjala’s punchline. We need a scholar of Dr Shiundu’s stature to unpack it, although Dr Odhiambo would be the ideal candidate. Academic disputations the world over take the tone of taunts. I invite my friend Rono to look up the unsavoury remarks that Prof Wole Soyinka and Prof Ali Mazrui used to exchange towards the end of the last millennium. It is all about protecting ones academic enclave. No, Dr Walunywa, literary critics can never be equal to our writers BY RICHARD MWANIKI literary theory and criticism is them and their teachers to sort out. What concerns me as a creative writer is the confidently asserted assumption by Dr Joseph Walunywa (‘Are these Kenya’s finest literary critics?’ Saturday Nation, February 8, 2014). The teacher of literature, languages, and linguistics at Egerton University avers: “It is clear, therefore that literature is by no means simply about creative writing. Therefore, we should pay equal consideration to these three branches of literature.” Dr Walunywa tells us that: W “...literary theory and criticism are as important... as creative literature...” He is categorical: “...critics deserve as much attention, support, and recognition as creative writers.” “The problem seems to be an inability on their (students) part to comprehend the complimentary role that the three branches of literature (creative writing, theory, and criticism) play in the development of a people’s literature.” That there are three branches of literature does not require translation. However, without writing, there would be no literature. Without writers, there would be no body of literature for any country. Critics are merely scholars who choose to make sense of a Literary critic Prof Chris Wanjala. Critics are dependent on creative writers. body of creative work. They are not necessary to the existence of that work. It came to be without them, and it does not improve, increase or diminish with criticism. Critics are dependent on the creative writer for their professional existence. I therefore do not believe that literary critics are a branch of literature without which creative writing cannot exist, develop, or grow, or that critics are equal to creative writers. Critics have — like the prover- bial camel — invited themselves into the creative writing house, and are pushing hard to dislodge the inhabitants from their ances- hether Kenyan students of literature comprehend and appreciate tral home. Criticism is a self-created pro- fession that thrives around the creative writing sector, the same way manambas, touts, and traffic police have attached themselves to the matatu public service sector like leeches. It is strange to hear scholarly critics demand that literature students pay attention to critical works on books rather than reading the books themselves. It better be pointed that literature students are primarily critics themselves. They understand that creative writers are the originators, and have no equal. Only a god can be equal to a god. Literary theorists are self- appointed experts. A country’s literature will grow because there are creative writers producing imaginative work, and consumers for it — period — not because there are critics to confuse the consumers with non-existent theories. I have to disagree with Dr Walunywa on this point: critics are readers who form opinions on creative work. Sitting down, and penning scholarly papers on the works does not make the critic equal to the creator. Visit the statue of Field Mar- shall Dedan Kimaathi, and have a look at it. Is the art critic who goes there with a camera, and writes an illustrative piece for his readers equal to the sculptor that created the statue? I say no! richard.mwaniki@rockfinancialc onsultants.co.ke The buck stops with drama teachers when it comes to shoddy school plays BY NICHOLAS CHERUIYOT This being the first term of the year, schools and colleges will take part in the drama festival competitions. That drama is a key component of literature cannot be gainsaid. Drama has played a key role in creating consciousness among the masses in the country. The exploits of international star Lupita Nyongo come to mind. Many remember the controver- sial play I Will Marry When I Want by renowned author Ngugi wa Thiongo. The stinging message the play carried ruffled feathers amongst the powers that be, for they felt their dictatorial tendencies were exposed. While the title suggested romantic escapades, the play was not about that. It predicted the toppling of totalitarian regimes. Plays by Francis Imbuga like Betrayal in the City caught the fancy of Kenyans. The mantle of penning powerful drama items that illuminates the current state of the nation is now with the current generation. Incisive plays, solo and choral verses, narratives and dances are needed to whet the appetite of young Kenyans. The play Shackles of Doom by Butere Girls in last year’s competition raised eyebrows, for while it carried a pertinent message, the manner of presentation was seen as one that bordered on sending subtle hate messages against an ethnic community. Teachers are professionals whose voice in the discourse of national matters are rarely hard. They stand accused of only coming out to protect what they perceive as their rights. Such competitions gives them a platform to speak to the nation by penning powerful pieces. Sadly, many of them fail in this regard. A section of them hire people (popularly known as mercenaries in the lingo of the festivals) to write set pieces for them. While this is perfectly legitimate, teachers, especially for literature and fasihi, let their creativity take a beating. They also waive their rights to select themes for the set pieces. Some teachers do shoddy work in theme selection and creation of set pieces. Wanting preparation of the cast is also commonly seen. The result is embarrassment for the cast when they are on stage. They may get jeered by the audience. Some judges have been known not to mince words when castigating wanting performances. The buck also stops with administrations of some schools. Some heads pay lip service to such co-curriculum activities. They rarely facilitate teachers to attend workshops relating to the such competitions and find it hard to meet the total cost of producing an item, say a play. At worst, some head teachers see it as a waste of time. Weekend 39 Pupils do not get a proper foundation BY TIMOTHY BETT The love for the English lan- guage in class is dead. Beatrice Wangui (Saturday Nation, February 8, 2014) asks: “Do our teachers have any passion for the career and for the subjects they undertake at university?” From her article, she seems to be blaming language teachers for the poor performance of students. She urges teachers of English to cultivate passion, discipline and interest in the subject. She wants to tell us that when a tree is planted with all the right conditions, when all dots are connected and all pieces of the puzzle right, then we will succeed in the teaching of English literature. It therefore means that primary school teachers nurture the seedlings. However, when a tree is overgrown with whole branches speaking, reading, hearing and writing bad English, who will cut down the crooked branches? I have taught English in high school and I can say we always receive poorly prepared pupils who force us to revisit what should have been taught early in pre-unit or lower classes. When you get a Form One student who can neither read nor write, how can he handle literature? Allow all to get an education BY KIMTAI CHERONGIS The recent revelation that some universities admit students with low grades to pursue undergraduate courses should not raise eyebrows. In the first place, even before being vocal on the matter, we have to define the word ‘charter.’ This is a legal document allowing a given university run its programs with independence — a licence showing that the learning institution has rightful resources to impart knowledge, qualified lecturers, good lecture halls and office facilities. The issue of a C plus result as a yardstick for one to call himself a university student is long gone. Education is a gradual process. A ‘D’ student holding a degree which was preceded by a certificate and a diploma could be much more competent in the job market compared to one who got a direct entry to university for having met the university cut off points. To contribute to this page, please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org a.com or write to The Editor, Saturday Nation, POB 49010, Nairobi 00100.
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