By Brenda Eunice

Barriers connected to differences in languages seemed like a hazard for decades though explicit outcomes haven’t been highly tackled.  In a country where I come from-Uganda, most parents feel that the source of knowledge is only through the English language. The perception of intelligence is based on who speaks and understands perfect English.

Many students in schools have been punished for speaking their vernacular/indigenous languages in favor for the English language. Well, Vernacular as defined ;  is a language or dialect  that is spoken by ordinary people in a particular country or region.  In Uganda, vernacular speaking is mostly prohibited in primary schools and high schools so different forms of punishments are carried out on students. Students that speak their local languages in schools are punished. We must understand that there are societies that are very successful in their economies without the English language such as Norway, Japan, China, Sweden, Russia ,Denmark etc.

To begin with, I understand that language gives you a sense of origin for example the Swahili language from Kenya; It is a very unique established language which holds so much harmony and a form of bringing people together. Evidently we have been brainwashed that our languages are vernaculars but lets not forget that these languages are part of us. Our ancestors communicated through these languages so teaching your children to speak your mother tongue is one of the greatest gifts you can give them  .

To support my claim, I went ahead and talked to a few people that ever experienced unfairness with language barriers . It’s factual that speaking vernacular is still condemned in Ugandan schools and punishments are still served

Matyansi : He says he will never forget the Kiyembe necklace. During his time in high school, if any student spoke their mother tongue, they were forced to wear a born like necklace. He highlights that this type of punishment was unjust and humiliating. A cow hoof born was tied around the victim’s neck. Sometimes the bones were often hard to identify, which gave the impression that they could have come from different types of animals or worse still human bones.

Another punishment Matyansi experienced was harsh cleaning : Some students were forced to do tremendous amounts of work such as cleaning the entire school after classes. This would consume so many hours and often completely exhaust them. In addition to that, some of the girls involved in the punishments were subjected to sexual harassment from male teachers-which could be is one of the major facets to consider because a lot of girl teenagers are succumbing to harsh escapades which are always uncharted.

Kyakwera: She can not forget the day she spoke her mother tongue whilst in school and was forced to wear a brown sack plus isolate herself in one place for hours-that meant she couldn’t even use the bathroom. What happens if you subject one into not peeing. Study shows that if someone doesn’t pee for some hours in a long run they can acquire diseases such as urinary tract infection, bladder stretching, damage to pelvic floor muscles and worse still causing the formation of kidney stones in your body. Kyakwera was such a vernacular speaker so she served most of the punishments like severe beatings from her teachers and school prefects. She reveals these beatings were brutal because they would leave students with bruises and wounds. To make it even worse, a common way of carrying out this punishment was to assemble the whole school in the courtyard at the end of the school day and whip the pupils who had spoken vernacular in front of all the entire school.

Besides punishing students for speaking their local language why don’t we explain to them the importance of  what is wrong and right. And of course, talking your vernacular language isn’t wrong or shouldn’t be something your punished for. When some one doesn’t understand the benefit of something, you try to dip them into an idea with a persuasive attitude. Instead of subjecting school children to long term trauma with such punishments why not guide them, strive to reveal the unknown to them by exercising aspects of persuasion rather than duress.


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