Uncovering language-in-education policy as a challenge to Tanzanian civic engagement

Jamie A. Thomas


Language has long been an important dimension of civil society in Tanzania, where English is the language of secondary and tertiary schooling, even as the majority of people use Swahili. Femina Hip is a non-governmental organization (NGO) active in Tanzania with its popular magazine Fema. This paper examines how a 2011 Fema article ignited lively discussion of Tanzanian language policy and planning among students on study abroad from Austria, China, and other countries, and their Tanzanian professor of Swahili language and literature. Their discussion critiques the Fema article, and explores the conundrum of Tanzania’s language-in-education policy through personal reflection.

Palabras clave

Education; language of instruction; language policy; linguistic subordination; Swahili.

Texto completo:



Blommaert, J. (1992). Codeswitching and the exclusivity of social identities: Some data from campus Kiswahili. In C. Eastman (Ed.) Codeswitching.Clevedon: Multilingual Matters Ltd. Pp. 57–70.

Brock-Utne, B. (2000). Whose education for all? The recolonialization of the African mind. New York: Falmer Press.

Brock-Utne, B. (2010). Policy on the language of instruction issue in Africa—a spotlight on South Africa and Tanzania. In Z. Desai, M. Qorro, & B. BrockUtne (Eds.).Educational challenges in multilingual societies: LOITASA Phase two research. Cape Town: African Minds Publishers. Pp. 74–101.

Brock-Utne, B., Desai, Z., & Qorro, M. (2006). (Eds.) Focus on fresh data on the language of instruction debate in Tanzania and South Africa. Cape Town: African Minds Publishers.

Brock-Utne, B., & Holmarsdottir, H. (2004). Language policies and practices in Tanzania and South Africa: Problems and challenges. International Journal of Educational Development, 24, 67–83.

Bucholtz, M., & Hall, K. (2005). Identity and interaction: A sociocultural linguistic approach. Discourse Studies, 7(4-5), 585–614.

Callaci, E. (2017). Street archives and city life: Popular intellectuals in postcolonial Tanzania. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Carothers, T., & Barndt, W. (1999). Civil society. Foreign Policy, (117), 18–29.

Githiora, C. (2008). Afro-mexicans: Discourse of race and identity in the African diaspora. Trenton: Africa World Press.

Grande, S. (2015). Red pedagogy: Native American social and political thought. Tenth anniversary edition. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefeld.

Green, M., Mercer, C., & Mesaki, S. (2012). Faith in forms: Civil society evangelism and development in Tanzania. Development in Practice, 22 (5-6), 721–734.

Holmes, T. (2007). Mapping the Magazine. Journalism Studies, 8(4), 510–521. Lange, S., Wallevik, H., &Kiondo, A. (2000). Civil Society in Tanzania. No. R2000:6 Bergen, Norway: CMI Reports. Pp. 1–45.

Lippi-Green, R. (2012). English with an accent: Language, ideology, and discrimination in the United States. Second edition. New York: Routledge.

Makoni, S., & Pennycook, A. (Eds.), Disinventing and reconstituting languages. Clevedon, U.K.: Multilingual Matters.

Mahboob, A., & Paltridge, B. (2013). Critical discourse analysis and critical applied linguistics. In C. Chapelle (Ed.), The encyclopedia of applied linguistics. 2nd ed., Vol. 28, pp. 2–9. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Malekela, G. (2003). English as a medium of instruction in post-primary education in Tanzania: Is it a fair policy to the learner? In B. Brock-Utne, Z. Desai, & M. Qorro (Eds.). Language of instruction in Tanzania and South Africa (LOITASA). Dar es Salaam: E&D Limited. Pp. 102–112.

Mazrui, A. (1997). The World Bank, the language question and the future of African education. Race and Class, 38(3), 35–48.

McCarty, T., Collins, J., & Hopson, R. (2011). Dell Hymes and the new language policy studies: Update from an underdeveloped country. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 42(4), 335–363.

Mdee, G. (2011). Kisaukosefuwavitabu? [Complaint over the lack of books?] Fema. July-September 2011, 42–43.

Mercer, C. (1999). Reconceptualizing state‐society relations in Tanzania: are NGOs “making a difference?” Area, 31(3), 247–258.

Moore, L. (2006). Learning by heart in Qur’anic and public schools in northern Cameroon. Social Analysis, 50, 109–126.

Mwinsheikhe, H. (2003). Using Kiswahili as a medium of instruction in science teaching in Tanzanian secondary schools. In B. Brock-Utne, Z. Desai, & M. Qorro (Eds.). Language of instruction in Tanzania and South Africa (LOITASA). Dar es Salaam: E&D Limited. Pp. 129–148.

Pike, C. (1986). History and imagination: Swahili literature and resistance to German language imperialism in Tanzania, 1885-1910. Te International Journal of African Historical Studies, 19(2), 201–233.

Qorro, M. (2009). English only vs. bilingual education in Africa: With a focus on Tanzania. In K. Prah& B. Brock-Utne (Eds.) Multilingualism: An African advantage, A paradigm shift in African language of instruction policies. Cape Town: Center for Advanced Studies of African Society (CASAS). Pp. 219–236.

Rodrick, A. (2019 [2004]). Self-help and civic culture: Citizenship in Victorian Birmingham. New York: Routledge.

Tanzania Census (2014). Basic demographic and socio-economic profle: Statistical tables, Tanzania mainland. National Bureau of Statistics, Ministry of Finance, Dar es Salaam; Office of Chief Government Statistician, Ministry of State; President’s Office; State House and Good Governance, Zanzibar.

Retrieved of https://www.tanzania.go.tz/home/pages/220.

Tomas, J. (2020). Zombies speak Swahili: Race, horror, and sci-f from Mexico and Tanzania to Hollywood. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Tomas, J. (in press). Ghanaian multilinguals on study abroad in Tanzania: Learning Swahili through Akan/Twi and cultures of storytelling. In E. Trentman and W. Diao (Eds.).The multilingual turn in study abroad. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Topan, F. (2008). Tanzania: The development of Swahili as a national and official language. In A. Simpson (Ed.). Language and national identity in Africa. New York: Oxford University Press. Pp. 252–266.

Trentman, E., & Diao, W. (2017). The American gaze east: Discourses and destinations of US study abroad. Study Abroad Research in Second Language Acquisition and International Education, 2, 175-205.

Tufte, T. (2014). Civil society sphericules: Emerging communication platforms for civic engagement in Tanzania. Ethnography, 15(1), 32–50.

Vavrus, F. (2002). Postcoloniality and English: Exploring language policy and the politics of development in Tanzania. TESOL Quarterly, 36(3), 373–397.

Se encuentra actualmente indizada en:

Creative Commons License
Todos los documentos publicados en esta revista se distribuyen bajo una
Licencia Creative Commons Atribución -No Comercial- Compartir Igual 4.0 Internacional.
Por lo que el envío, procesamiento y publicación de artículos en la revista es totalmente gratuito.