Students see no need for reading since they can rely on ‘writing notice’ from teachers or previous students aka ‘desa’
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Blog on Saturday laments that “Tanzanians Talk a Lot, Read Less!” (June 10, p. 7). He is writing about the findings by a number of studies that show that the culture of reading books in the Country is slowly but surely dying: “The old habit that used to involve turning the pages over with a flick of the finger, not the click of the mouse or remote is slowly dying a natural death”.

Well, it is not only that we are reading less, but we are also listening less, observing less and consequently, thinking less. In institutions of higher learning, lecturers are complaining that students sit in class like captives.

They do not react to what is being taught, they do not ask questions even when prompted, although they try to write everything that comes from the mouth of the lecturer.

The lecture is no more than a monologue. Should a handout be given, a committee of students will be formed to memorise it, in what is called, in their parlance: “discussion”. I have also noticed that during regular lectures my class is half full.

When there is a test or examination the class is full to more than capacity, meaning that students do not attend classes, yet they pass exams. I ask my students what they have read in their school life: Alfu Lela U lela? Adili na Nduguze? Rosa Mistika? Bulicheka? Karume Kenge? Round the World in 80 Days? Animal Farm?

In all cases I draw a blank. Yet these young people know something, but what is it? According to an official from the Children’s Book Project reported in the article under review: “if a child cannot master 80 per cent of ‘alphabets’ while at kindergarten it becomes difficult for him/her to read properly and therefore enjoy reading books …….”.

Here I have a problem with the concept of “80 per cent of the alphabets”. For any given language, the alphabet is one. It is a set of letters in a particular order that are used for writing a language.

Students therefore do not learn “alphabets” but letters in the alphabet. Thus the sentence should read something like: “if a child cannot master 80 percent of the letters of the alphabet, it becomes difficult for him/her …….”.

What happens in the future for these children who did not master the alphabet? “And when these children grow up and become adults they will not like to read. Unfortunately in secondary schools, colleges and universities they rely on writing ‘notice’ their teachers and previous students a.k.a. desa as they only source of knowledge”.

They do not write “notice” from their teachers and former students surely! They write “notes”. And this “desa’ is a new vocabulary which means copying or relying on somebody else’s work.

It is akin to the concept of copying and pasting (C&P) which is taking the thinking away from many of our students. My re-write of the above sentence runs as follows: “And when these children become adults they will not like to read.

Unfortunately in secondary schools, colleges and universities students rely on ‘notes’ (not ‘notice’) from their teachers and previous students as their only source of knowledge. In other words, they ‘desa’”.

The writer goes on to complain: “Oddly, unlike other people from developed world who spend hours reading a range of books and novels, Africans are wasting a lot of time gossiping on the trivia”.

Please note that novels are also books. It does not, thus, make sense to differentiate between books and novels. I propose to rewrite the sentence thus: “Oddly, unlike other people from ‘the’ developed world who spend hours reading a range of books ‘including’ novels, Africans are wasting a lot of time gossiping on trivia”.

Note that much as we are being conditioned to castigate developed countries (read: “The West”) we do have much to learn from them, including the culture of reading. Students please stop relying on teachers’ “notice”.

Espouse the culture of reading books, magazines, articles and so on for your prosperity. Do they still have a subject called “Book Reading” in Schools? I wonder. Idd Mubarak!

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