CATS hosts Seminar on Using Indigenous Chichewa Terminologies for Mathematics Education

September 16, 2016   Chanco Bulletin
Bwanali making his presentation in the Faculty of Education Boardroom
On 15th September, 2016, the Curriculum and Teaching Studies (CATS) Department in the Faculty of Education hosted a seminar where Mr Alick Kadango Bwanali presented a paper entitled “Developing Chichewa Mathematics Terminologies Using Indigenous Knowledge”. Mr Bwanali is a lecturer in the African Languages and Linguistics Department, but also works as a Chichewa Language Specialist at the Centre for Language Studies (CLS). He is currently enrolled as a student in a split-site PhD programme involving the University of Strathclyde (Scotland) and the University of Malawi.

The paper, which was based on Mr Bwanali’s research proposal, had already been presented in Scotland. It was being presented in Malawi as the researcher was aware that his audience might be more familiar with his chosen context of study – Nkhoma in Lilongwe district. The paper originated from the researcher’s awareness of a deficiency in terminology for technical and scientific concepts. He noted that the advent of technological development highlights the lack of specialized terminology in local languages, which creates a challenge in the teaching of mathematics and science subjects. In identifying the problem, Bwanali noted that, at present, textbooks for teaching subjects such as mathematics employ transliteration (or Chichewa-ization) of English terms. This results in usage of terms such as seko (circle), koni (cone), sikweya (square), voluyumu (volume),  fulakishoni (fraction) and thirayango (triangle). Due to the lack of availability of equivalent terms in local languages, the learning process becomes rather hampered. Bwanali pointed out that, as part of his research, he intends to investigate Malawi’s language policy and its implication on the language used as medium of instruction. He further intends to investigate indigenous knowledge systems (IKS), with the aim of examining whether such systems can yield terminologies that would assist in clarifying mathematical concepts.

The seminar was attended by a number of scholars from Chancellor College, mostly from the African Languages and Linguistics Department and the Faculty of Education. These academics engaged Mr Bwanali on his proposed research, and made a number of suggestions for improving his research endeavor. At the end of the presentation, the Head of CATS, Dr Amos Chauma, pointed out that this seminar is part of a series of seminars that are being hosted by the department. The seminars will be held on a monthly basis.