Qubee, Reading Speed and the changes
By Mootii Baarboo
Let me first start by confessing that I am one of those who suffer from reading slow, if there is a such thing as fast reading. But how do you measure your reading speed? Yes, I realize reading can be categorised into different ways based on its purpose and subject. There are materials we scheme through, others we pay great attention to. For example, formal documents. The result, in all cases, is to grasp the message the writer intended to transmit through writing. There are written materials we do not need to memorise as long as we understand the gist of it; say for example, a fiction. There are other materials, academic or legal documents we need to understand and remember after reading. In all cases a fast reader is one who has gone through the written material in the shortest amount of time possible.
Now, back to why I confessed I am a slow reader. I have been conscious of my reading speed both at work and home for many years. At work I have always been the one who struggles to finish a paper or handout given to a group in workshop participants. The other participants (mostly who had different educational and upbringing background to me) finish reading well ahead and have to wait for me to start discussion on what we were supposed to read. This has been an embarrassing experience for me but is something I had to live with. At home, it would always take me weeks, if not months, to finish reading a book. At the moment I am reading The Brothers Karazamov (Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s excellent novel) and I know this will take me at least a month to finish, if I am lucky.
I have been pondering on the issue of reading speed for many years. In fact, a good friend and I had started writing a book on the same subject but have temporarily stopped owing for personal reasons. I hope that the book will be completed in due course.
Although I have made the confession to being a slow reader, this is a common experience to all those who have been through the Ethiopian education system in general and particularly those who have been to rural Ethiopian schools. One does not need to have in depth knowledge of the pedagogy of teaching, learning and reading to understand why the reading speed of Ethiopian students is slow. First of all, one can ask if the reading materials are easily available to students. Secondly, one can question if the contents are relevant to the lives, cultures and customs of the learners. What about the teachers? How many of them have the skills or experience of reading let alone the ability to teach reading effectively? So, I suspect the main reasons for slow reading or not reading at all are lack of reading materials, ineffective teaching learning provisions and the nonexistence reading culture. This is in fact true to most Ethiopian schools who read in different languages like Qubee or Ge’ez script and even reading English (taught in universities). I have not had solid information as to why or the extent of the changes being proposed (or, implemented) to the Qubee; but what I am one hundred percent confident is the order shouldn’t be one reason for the changes, at least from the pedagogical point of view. Look, the Roman (or Latin) alphabet, which the Oromo people have endorsed to be the basis for writing their language, has been used to write many African, Asian, European and American languages without attracting interventions from USAID ( I suspect the project to change was funded by this organisation). The money should have been wisely spent on upgrading teachers’ teaching skills and providing suitable resources which would facilitate good and effective teaching and reading environments. Oromo people have gained the right to read and write in their language through the ultimate sacrifice of many of their dear children. Any changes to the system should only happen through open discussion and consultation with the wide Oromo people, without imposition of any kind.