Vol 24 No 1 (2015): Nordic Journal of African Studies
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The Replacement of Swahili Medium of Instruction by English from Grade 5 in Zanzibar: from Complementary to Contradictory

Haroun Ayoub Maalim
Rhodes University
Nordic Journal of African Studies
Published March 31, 2015


This paper presents an analysis of the recent change of language of learning and teaching from Swahili to English in Grades 5 to 6 in primary schools in Zanzibar. For decades, since the independence of Zanzibar in 1961, the language of learning and teaching for primary schools was Swahili, the mother tongue of Zanzibaris. This study critically explores language practice, language beliefs, and language management in relation to the new policy and its consequences. The findings confirmed a number of drawbacks due to the change of policy, in terms of human and material resources as well as cognition. Finally, the findings revealed that the implementation of the new language policy is shaped by teachers’ beliefs that content subjects are learned better in the language of the students. In terms of Spolsky’s (2004; 2009) language policy framework the implementation of top-down English-only policy in Grade 5 and 6 in primary schools in Zanzibar will always be in conflict with teachers’ beliefs and their practice in the classroom.