South Sudan schools to teach in English, not Arabic

Fri Oct 28, 2011 10:09am EDT
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JUBA (Reuters) - South Sudan said on Wednesday its schools will start teaching English, phasing out Arabic that had been used as a tool to spread Islamic law and Arab heritage by former civil war foe Khartoum.

The mainly Muslim north imposed Islamic law and Arabic on the south, which seceded in July to become the world's newest nation, and where most follow Christian and traditional beliefs.

The language move is symbolic of the nation's vision of closer integration with African neighbors, said Samson Wattara, an associate professor in political science at Juba University.

"The switch will not be automatic and will probably be problematic but South Sudanese want to look southwards," Wattara told Reuters.

"This is a departure from the arabisation doctrine which was consistently opposed by different rebellions," he said.

South Sudan's government passed a bill making English mandatory for teaching in primary and secondary schools, Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin told reporters.

"Under the Khartoum government subjects were universally taught in Arabic. We will teach our national languages at pre-school and for the rest, the instructions in mathematics or science will all be in English," he said.

South Sudan has dozens of local languages and dialects, but the most commonly spoken languages are English and Arabic.

Benjamin said the country is training 7,000 new teachers to help launch the new syllabus, to give students easier access to universities in east Africa. Secondary school students will continue to sit exams in Arabic for the next three years.   Continued...