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<firstname.lastname@example.org> Not long ago I had an email from someone who mentioned in passing how children in a primary school in Tanzania were threatened with a beating if they spoke a word of their mother tongue. There are of course lots of stories that go back to the colonial period of how the "vernaculars" were excluded from classrooms and school grounds in favor of the languages introduced by colonizers, and of punishments or shaming meted out to students who transgressed the language rules. Usually such was rationalized as being in the students' best interest and for keeping order. (There were cases where African languages were used in education but these were less frequent.) Nowadays there is more discussion of mother tongue bilingual approaches to at least primary education, and where these have not been introduced, cases of teachers bending the rules to use students' first languages to make lessons clearer. Nevertheless, old ways continue and I wanted to get a better idea in this "International Year of Languages" of what really is the status is of (1) excluding African languages from schools, and (2) the means used to enforce those rules. There are ample reasons to raise this set of questions. For instance, a recent article in a Ghanaian newspaper states: "In schools, some authorities are waging silent wars on the teaching and learning of local languages. In order to improve the teaching and learning of the English language, school authorities often discourage their pupils from speaking local languages on their premises. Offenders are humiliated accordingly." /1 And while I have not found news articles discussing corporal punishment for speaking an African language, an IRIN article not long ago reported widespread abuse by teachers in Togo and West Africa. /2 How often are beatings administered for linguistic transgressions? In at least one case in the recent past in Lesotho, students not teachers were assigned the task of physically punishing classmates who spoke something other than the school language./3 Is this any less a problem? How much are such things continuing in African schools? What kind of messages does it send about learning, scholarship and the value of diverse cultures? Is this an issue that should figure more prominently in discussions of expanding education in the region? Don Osborn 1. Daily Graphic, "International Mother Tongue Day," Wed, 20 Feb 2008 http://www.modernghana.com/GhanaHome/NewsArchive/news_details.asp?menu_id=1 <http://www.modernghana.com/GhanaHome/NewsArchive/news_details.asp?menu_id=1 &id=VFZSVk5FMVVXVEE9> &id=VFZSVk5FMVVXVEE9 2. IRIN, "WEST AFRICA: Children in danger: Battered and bruised" 29 June 2006 http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=59520 3. On Lesotho [blog], "Speaking English in Lesotho (Ho bua Senyesemane Lesotho)," 06 January 2004 http://lesotho.blogspot.com/2004/01/speaking-english-in-lesotho-ho-bua.html