Africa

Tanzanian elders mourn demise of handwritten letters

On World Post Day, some Tanzanians recall thrill of handwritten letters, others say old system is irrelevant in instant messaging era

Kizito Makoye   | 08.10.2021
Tanzanian elders mourn demise of handwritten letters

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania

On eve of the World Post Day, which is being observed on Saturday, many people in Tanzania mourn the demise of handwritten letters. But young Tanzanians say, they are content with the faster communication system and do not want to return to the era of letter writing. They wonder if handwritten text could find any relevance in the world of instant messaging, texting, and e-mail.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency Godfrey Mhina, 47, an accountant, recalls how he used to wait for his mother’s posts while studying at Milambo Secondary School in Tanzania’s western Tabora region in the early 1990s.

“My mother was a skilled writer. She presented her thoughts and ideas in such a way that could help to heal my troubles,” he said.

He recalled the excitement when he used to see his name on the envelope and smell the fragrance of his mother’s hands and then the elaborate operation of opening the envelope without destroying the content.

Shocked at the rapid decline of the art of letter writing, Mhina who lives in Dar es Salaam said this culture has died due to the speed and convenience of communicating through e-mail.

“I don’t know if schools still teach letter writing,” he said.

He said the keyboards and touch screens have eroded creative writings skills.

“Nobody these days bothers to sit down and take a pen and paper to write a letter to a friend,” he said.

Martha Qorro, professor of linguistics at the University of Dar es Salaam said crafting a letter on a piece of paper meant using the mind to organize thoughts before putting them down. The composition of email allows the composer to repeatedly erase incoherent phrases.

“When you scrawl on a piece of paper, you spend more time to organize your thoughts and creatively present them,” Qorro told the Anadolu agency.


Amazing experience

From the choice of paper to the type of envelope, the color ink of a pen to the postage stamp used on the envelope, the art of letter writing would forever remain an amazing experience, he said.

Further, she said the handwriting would bring forth the feeling of creativity, self-expression and even represented depth of character and emotion, which is missing in e-mails or text messages.

“A letter takes time to compose and has more thoughtful structure, containing information and opinion amassed for some time. You simply need a pen envelope, stamps, and beautiful words,” she said.

Young Tanzanians, however, hate the idea of writing letters which they say is old fashioned and takes time to organize thoughts than typing an e-mail on a computer screen.

“I wouldn’t waste my time to take a pen and paper to write a letter, what a waste of time,” said Latifa Abdul a second-year student at the Institute of social welfare in Dar es Salaam.

Gladness Mwakyoma, a student at Makongo Secondary School said it is unfair to compare ordinary mail with email which allows faster transmission and quicker response.

“Honestly, writing a letter is a costly ordeal to me. Why should I waste my time and money rushing to the post office, buying stamps?” he asked.


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