Today I had the pleasure of attending a meeting with an amazing young lady here in Cape Town, South Africa who is doing work within a local school to increase students learning experiences and curriculum. She also teaches Xhosa lessons to the volunteers who come and work with the students within the non profit I work with. During this meeting she spoke about the disconnect with students properly knowing their ‘mother tongue’.
It is interesting to me how even here on the continent there is still much distance in the knowledge and overstanding of who we are. South Africa is unique in this due to the suffrage of Apartheid that is still heavily shown within living conditions today. As we sat and spoke over water and lemonade, she explained to the two other ladies on my leadership team and myself about how students were mandated to strictly learn in English once in the 4th grade after speaking Xhosa their mother tongue all previous years. The switch is so sudden that students scores significantly decrease. The gate keepers of the Xhosa language feel that there is a huge need to keep the deep historical values and traditions of their mother tongue. They overstand the depth and beauty that is in their language. However, more and more this is becoming difficult with the low emphasis put on learning their language in school.
This was extremely shocking to hear that many of our students we work with are struggling in their own language in class and know very little of their history. How can this be in AFRICA?! As she explained how certain translations for example a word in Xhosa that means traditional healer translates to ‘witch doctor’ in English which automatically turns people away from all associations of their natural roots. When in actuality the traditional healer is one who simply uses natural herbs and remedies for healing. Something of purity and light turned into something seen negatively. It’s true that many African languages are so deep in meaning that when translated it doesn’t give the word, phrase or statement it’s true depth.
As I sat in awe I begin to make the same connections in how even in America where I was born there are many African Americans who want no association with Africa and will protest of their ‘Non African’ roots. I feel that those individuals are simply confused and misinformed. Perhaps they have never been taught. So how can you forget what you have never been taught? It’s imperative to bring awareness to those who are lost and vital that we teach the next generation of their roots. Not merely about nationality or ethnicity but of their divinity. This is the highest of self that surpasses all boundaries, that in which connects us all indefinitely.