HC Deb 02 July 1928 vol 219 cc952-3

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that in British East Africa it is a crime punishable by law to teach a native child to read English without an official licence, and that the teaching of English to native children in Uganda is to be stopped except to such children whose future work, such as telegraphists, is likely to require it; and whether he has given his sanction to this policy?


Under the Education Ordinance of Kenya no person may, except in special circumstances, be appointed as a teacher in any Government, assisted or private school, who does not hold a certificate of competency or a licence to teach issued or recognised by the Education Department. I am not, however, aware of any penalty attaching by law specifically to the teaching of English without a licence. In Uganda the Governor has, after much consideration, proposed that Swahili should replace the various tribal languages as the medium of instruction in elementary vernacular schools in various parts of the country, and the matter is to be discussed with him during his visit to this country. I am not aware that any proposal is under consideration to curtail existing facilities for the teaching of English to native children in Uganda.


Is it not a fact that the teaching of English to natives in these territories is definitely discouraged by the Government, and, in view of the fact that this country belongs to the British Commonwealth of Nations, can the right hon. Gentleman say why they should be prevented from learning the English language?


I think the hon. Member is mistaken. I do not think there is any discouragement of natives learning English There is discouragement of unqualified teachers attempting to teach anything, and there is also the question of teaching the natives in the lowest classes in the schools through their vernacular, which is much more easy for them to understand.


Will the right hon. Gentleman say what is the precise significance of the word "specifically" in the answer to the original question? What modification does that imply?


It simply means that there is not a legal penalty attaching to the teaching of English.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a knowledge of English is the best protection these natives can have against exploitation, and will he see that there is no encouragement in this apparent direction of keeping the natives ignorant of the English language?


I do not think there is anything like that.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

Is this the new Imperialism, to discourage the tongue of Shakespeare and Milton?