I may not speak or speculate about the whole educational spectrum or elevate myself to a lofty conversation that is all-embracing. Rather, I wish to delve my nose in the world of literature and the teaching of this subject and examining the new curriculum through the eyes of a literary scholar and teacher.
Literature in itself is an art, but the process of creating it is an art, a science and a craft. As an art, learning of literature involves interest, just as some would love other liberal arts or whichever discipline which may elicit excitement and enthusiasm in them.
The rolling out of 8.4.4. system of education was celebrated then as one which will cure all sorts of diseases, be they fungal, bacterial or viral, bedeviling, the preceding curriculum. It however failed as far as literature is concerned. Its successor, the much-touted Competence Based Curriculum nevertheless, will thrive where its predecessor failed.
The resultant effect of the introduction of 8.4.4. system was the merging of English language and Literature. Much as it has been argued beyond doubt, that the two are not only sisters but bedfellows, (indeed married) as some scholars would cheekily suggest. This is not entirely the case.
For whereas language embodies literature, literature on the other hand employs language both as its medium as well as its object. This explains the need to probably teach them as one subject. The challenge with this pedagogical approach is that Language is a science while Literature an art. Merging them would only serve to strengthen one while weaken the other. The casualty as expected would be Literature.
What this integration gives with the right hand, it takes with the left. The place of Literature as a discipline was elevated and demoted at the same time. Elevated in a sense that it became a core subject subsumed within English. Demoted in a sense that it only operated in the shadows of its favourite sister.
Jingoistic as it may sound, Literature like any other discipline is for the ordained, the anointed and the initiated. The initiation of course starts with the interest, just as the case with the traditional circumcision of boys among the Bukusus, interest was regarded as an act of valour and therefore the first stage in the process of this anointing.
In short, the new curriculum is a good one, it seeks to empower Literature by giving it autonomy and freedom to be studied without being boxed within language. It will cure the dearth and slow death that Literature had started suffering as a result of teachers giving it little or no attention, condemning it to the periphery of learning. It may be studied as an elective subject, be that as it may, its position will be reified as it’ll be studied in its truest and purest form.
Barack Wandera is a Publisher with Intercen Books and a teacher of English at Butere Girls’ High School. He is an M.A. student at Maseno University, has authored Diwani ya Msikicho and co-edited Poetry anthologies: Millennial Voices and Soaring above the Pandemics.