Makerere makes bid to improve elocution

March 22, 2002

Globalisation has increased the need for better communication. THES reporters look at universities that are promoting English as the common language.

Split infinitives, uncrossed ts and garbled expressions such as "I was like mad" and "like so" in essays may finally have become too much to bear for academics at universities in Uganda. The Makerere University senate is debating whether to make English classes compulsory for first-year students at the university.

The decision, if passed, is likely to be picked up by other public and private universities in the country.

Although English is Uganda's official language, and one of the most widely spoken throughout the country, employers said the quality, especially among young people, was shocking.

"Because of the gravity of the problem, we want to make English a compulsory subject to any student, whether taking the sciences or the arts," Collins Ssebunga Masembe, dean of the school of languages at Makerere, said.

The deterioration of English and elocution skills, schoolteachers and language experts said, started with the proliferation of the electronic media. Ten years ago, Uganda had only one radio station and one television station, leaving reading as an alternative source of entertainment and information. By last year, Uganda had about 100 radio stations and some eight TV channels.

The impetus to improve the quality of English at university followed complaints by the government that young recruits into the civil service could hardly express themselves in English.

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