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Geoffrey Mwemezi, now studying taxation at the University of Dar es Salaam, said it took two years of secondary school before he could understand English fluently. In the meantime, he said he was “just learning the answers by heart.”

Teachers also have difficulties un-der the dictate to only use English.

“In reality, half of the topic is taught through Kiswahili,” said John William-Ngowi, a civics and history teacher at Gerezani.

“If you’re teaching half and half, what do you expect? Students cannot become competent [in any subject].”

“Most students are not ready to use English,” added his colleague Jullie Chitambo, who teaches history and English. “At the end of the period, we are not sure if they have understood anything.”

Even though most parents acknowledge that their children comprehend very little, the majority do not wish to change the system, analysts say.

That is partly because they worry about employment opportunities.

Their children need to learn English to get into universities or hold jobs in public administration.

Others worry about international isolation.

Despite the difficulties he experienced, Mr. Membar said learning in English is important.

“When you’re outside this country, you can’t talk Kiswahili,” he said.

Many worry that if the system is changed, people will speak even less English, the language of business, administration and higher education as well as the common tongue of the East African region.

In such a market, it is important to continue teaching in English, said Mwemezi Makumba, a journalist at the Tanzanian Business Times.

“It’s important to know English,” he said. “There is no way we can avoid this.”

Unmotivated teachers

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