The Sunday News
CRY the beloved subject of Literature. Literature in English or English Literature is slowly coming to its demise if current trends are anything to go by. A close analysis of the new curriculum, the subject of Literature is no longer part of the core subjects.
Many learners today given an option do not study it for obvious reasons as they prefer to follow a more scientific or practical approach. Learners with a high aptitude do not choose it. This means that average and below average learners are the ones who choose it.
There is nothing wrong with this as long as learners fall into the right hands. By this I am referring to situations where learners find themselves taught by teachers highly interested in the subject. This helps them develop strong interest in the subject. Subject combinations draw many learners away from subjects like literature. Once a learner chooses a commercial or scientific path, she or he cannot study literature as well.
Nowadays the emphasis on learners becoming job creators than job seekers after they have gone through school affects arts subjects and some commercial subjects. Learners with the help of their parents, guardians, teachers and other career choice experts look at some subject combinations and ask, “What career options does a learner have after going through school with such subject combinations?” With the advent of technology and more advancement still coming in some subject combinations render learners useless.
Affected learners cannot do anything on their own except waiting to be called for jobs which are already oversubscribed and retrenchments in such areas are the order of the day. Modern machinery is taking over jobs which were previously carried out by hundreds of people. This is reality on the ground. This sounds paradoxical that companies are encouraged to create more jobs yet on the other hand they are retrenching. Technology is taking over.
All over the country, be it in Government meetings, private sector meetings or workshops conducted people are encouraged to embrace technology so that they are not left behind. Technology works all over because even where arts subjects are a prerequisite for employment like in the media or legal field technology has come in. So practitioners in these fields should be technologically sound.
On top of all this, literature is threatened to go into oblivion especially from junior to O-level. The key problem is on the choice of set books prescribed by the examination body. While it is commendable for taking a deliberate stance in making learners study literature texts written by local writers and many others from across the African continent, the texts are received with misgivings by many schools, especially schools run by churches.
Most of these schools are unhappy with the content found in some of the texts which is against their teachings. I remember a couple of years ago there was an outcry of the content of a Ndebele set book which led to its removal from the syllabus. Now people have been quiet on the latest Literature in English text books which have Biblical references and some have inappropriate language for learners.
I am not trying to raise a storm in a tea cup, but, those who have gone through them will realise that those dissenting voices have a genuine call and the prevalence of such inappropriate language should be avoided at all times. It takes a wayward paragraph for a well written story to be ruined like some instances in some of these texts. The unfortunate thing for those who are against such writing is that almost all the set texts have something untoward. To keep on condemning this or that text book for another leaves learners with limited choices.
There are cases where out of four books learners end up with one choice. I know at face value some people might dismiss this cry from the affected schools as minor and tell them to reform and accept change. Those who know better will tell you that it is not easy to move mountains in matters of religion. Please note that I am not advocating for continuous repetition of texts which were acceptable to everybody and have been studied over the years.
Agreed variety is the spice of life, so goes the old English adage, new texts should be brought in and studied, after all they are more relevant to today’s learners. However, “cleaner” books in terms of content and language should be chosen. I know I am touching a hornet’s nest and will be stung from left right and centre for talking about “clean” books, the point I am making is for study purposes learners should not be bombarded with dirty language like s . . t or the “f” word. Spare learners from such language.
The unfortunate thing is that nowadays almost all writers whether local or international are no longer producing “clean” books. Church schools who adhere strictly to their teachings will find it difficult to get texts which might be called “clean”.
Learners in such schools will opt out of literature classes as they will be disadvantaged in terms of choice of books. This applies to poetry as well, not necessarily novels and drama books only.
The situation is dicey. You cannot just say, “Take it or leave it.” How about the learners?
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