Teaching English Literature
The role of English and French literature was to perpetuate the perceived superiority of such languages in occupied territories in Africa and Asia.
There are still English lit students and I don't know how the subject is taught today. I’m a qualified teacher and for the life of me, I cannot remember how we were trained to teach literature.
I must add that literature meant only British books such as Jane Eyre, not A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth from India, not Inkinsela yase Mgungundlovu by Sibusio Nyembezi from South Africa, not Simone de Beuavoir from France and not Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison of the United States.
My own literature experience was plain torture because I did not understand a thing in the Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man or even Charles Dickens. All I know is that the boy Charles was constantly hungry and he was in a home of some sort.
I resorted to memorising or cramming, as students called it. Just commit to memory as many details as possible so that I could crawl through the literature paper torture chamber.
I enjoy British literature now because I had the misfortune of being exiled from my country of birth. I found myself in Durham, England courtesy of the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) that decided that I should be ‘educated’ so that I could feed and clothe myself.
I realise in hindsight that it was mis-education, because it was designed to do one thing, destroy and debase the knowledge and wisdom of African, Ojibway, Sioux, Assiniboine, Hindustani, Maori, and other aboriginal people.
Literature was at the helm of this process. I’m the lucky one. I finally discovered the joy of literature after my British degree. I had the will to crawl back to the British library in Maseru, the capital of Lesotho.
I re-discovered British literature at my pace. I was in England for three years and therefore understood the accents and how they determined one’s future in British society. I even enjoyed Yes Minister, the British television series starring Nigel Hawthorne.
I can hear volcanoes of dissent. It is not necessary to visit Britain to enjoy British literature, they gurgle. I beg to differ. It is. The English that is spoken in the East End of London is not the same as the one spoken in Harrow or Knightsbridge. I went to Durham University, but I was also exposed to Arthur Scargill and the northern coalmines.
English teachers in Africa, in their zeal to project England as the perfect country that had gone to South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the massive United States of America to save the natives forgot to tell us about British imperfections.People who still believe that English is the only language worth knowing lose out great books and films that are not born in Britain and its former occupied territories. They are not educated, period.