Samora  Biko ,Nkosinathi  Biko  and Nontsikelelo  Biko  at the unveiling of  Steve   Biko 's bronze bust at the Durban University of Technology to commemorate the 30th anniversary of his death on 19 September 2007. 
PHOTO:RAYLENE CAPTAIN-HASTHIBEER
The unveiling of Steve Biko's bronze bust at the Durban University of Technology to commemorate the 30th anniversary of his death on 19 September 2007. PHOTO:RAYLENE CAPTAIN-HASTHIBEER

IMPLEMENTATION of eurocentric knowledge has been to the detriment and annihilation of African cultures and identities.

Its adverse effect have resulted in high failure rate by African students who study at former white universities in a country whose medium of instruction is English.

African students have to adjust to new cultural dynamics when they enter SA’s former white institutions.

During the recent commemoration of Steve Biko’s legacy, newspapers carried articles lamenting the failure to implement indigenous languages in mainstream instructions and further queried the ignorance by white people who do not want to learn African languages — yet they talk of reconciliation and social cohesion.

Obviously most white people harbour a huge fear of Africans and thus would prefer the perpetual subjugation of Africans, their culture and language. This is why many dislike African languages because they have been indoctrinated to believe that their languages, culture and skin colour is superior.

The defence is that African languages do not have economic value in the world stage. This argument is riddled with errors. English as a language has been exported to many countries without its economic value.

Perhaps the problem lies with Africans themselves who find it difficult to rise from colonisation. Many are eager to perpetuate colonial mentalities and practices. Colonisation has paralysed Africans’ thinking.

Colonisation has incapacitated the African mind — detachment from the colonial masters is an unthinkable endeavour despite obtaining "independence". Despite having obtained political freedom, economically African countries rely heavily on their former colonisers.

In turn the former colonial masters still dictate terms and conditions of trade and relations, thus maintaining their previous status in another form. Through a realisation of Africa’s potential, the continent could rise from its "darkness", move from dependency, take charge and manage its natural resources and embark on export orientated programs.

However, to achieve these goals Africa must start from the beginning: language is identity, language is culture, and language is who we are. The fastest growing economies such as Japan and China managed to grow their economy through the realisation of the potential of mother tongue language at schools.

Africans can achieve immeasurable gains and growth by allowing children to learn in their mother tongue rather than English. Creativity, innovation and critical thinking skills are enhanced through mother tongue languages.

As long as Africans continue to use foreign languages to define themselves, they will not get the respect they deserve, their identities will be confused and economic potential stifled. Ngugi Wa Thiong’o says depriving Africans from learning in their mother tongue amounts to a human rights violation.

As the country celebrates the heritage month and the commemoration of Steve Biko and his assertion of black pride, indigenous languages should be nurtured and nourished to avert their extinction.

Phillimon Mnisi

Johannesburg