This week Education Times joins the debate on whether children attending pre-primary and lower primary should be taught in Kinyarwanda as is the government policy or they should be taught in English or French as many private schools are doing.
The question is largely premised on the unfounded fears that those who are taught in Kinyarwanda are being left behind by their English speaking peers in the private schools. This could also be premised on the wishful thinking that a little boy or girl speaking fluent English or French appears smarter than the one who will only be able to do that a few years later.
What I can say with certainty is that bilingualism only has benefits to offer. There are enough studies to prove that a child learns better if they start with their mother tongue as this ropes their culture and environment into their understanding.
It is also quite obvious that it is easier to learn more than one language at a young age than in adulthood. So children should not be denied this chance. They need to master Kinyarwanda and then take on another language.
I know we live in a globalised world and English is a global language. However we also need to observe that not learning it from the start has not stopped countries like Japan, China, India or Germany from developing.
It would be more embarrassing if an adult who has only studied in English was found to be unable to speak his mother tongue with his relatives or his people. If charity begins at home then let us start with Kinyarwanda and then pick up on English or French eventually. At the end we are better off knowing more than one language.