Can Uganda Ably Make Kiswahili Popular?

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Thu Aug 30 13:10:16 UTC 2007

*Can Uganda Ably Make Kiswahili Popular?*

New Vision (Kampala)
28 August 2007
Posted to the web 29 August 2007

By Irene Nabusoba

THE Government recently endorsed Kiswahili as the national language and a
compulsory subject from Primary Four to secondary level, the latter starting
with this year's inaugural Universal Secondary School batch. However, there
are only two teachers' colleges out of the 40 institutions, which can
produce Kiswahili teachers. It is only Gaba Primary Teachers' College (PTC),
which has done it for the last three years and Kabale PTC. The other was
Kakoba Teachers' Training College, which was training secondary Kiswahili
teachers, but has been converted into a university.

The introduction of Kiswahili is now more imminent with the rejuvenation of
the East African Community (EAC). Even Members of Parliament are undergoing
urgent training in the language. Aggrey Kibenge, the principal assistant
secretary and public relations officer in the Ministry of Education, says
the question of an official and national language has been debated for a
long time, but 'the potential of Kiswahili to promote the desired national
unity, patriotism and pan-africanism is far greater than that of any other
Ugandan language.'

"Learning Kiswahili will promote tourism, communication with other countries
and enhance Uganda's participation in affairs concerning this region,"
Kibenge, who is also the ministry's EAC desk officer, says. Kiswahili is
spoken and used by a fairly large proportion of people in Africa. It is also
internationally recognised and used for broadcast news and
recreation/education by international broadcasting agencies.

*What is the origin of Kiswahili anyway?*

An internet site, says Kiswahili is a Bantu-based conglomerate
of African languages with some borrowed words from other foreign languages
like Arabic. It was introduced by Arabs and Persians who moved to the East
African coast, and absorbed vocabulary from the various native languages.
For long, Kiswahili remained limited to the people of the East African
coast, but spread to the interior of Tanzania and Kenya through trade and
migration. It was the colonial administrators who pioneered the effort of
standardising the Kiswahili language.

During Amin's rule, Kiswahili was declared the national language of Uganda,
but the declaration has never been seriously observed nor repealed by the
successive governments.

*How ready are we for Swahili?*

The 1992 Government White Paper on the education policy review recommended
that Kiswahili be integrated in Uganda's education system starting from P.5.
However, Kibenge says Kiswahili will be gradually introduced in P.4 and
shall be examinable in the Primary Leaving Examinations. He says the
National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) at Kyambogo has been charged
with the responsibility to develop the curriculum and other study materials.

Francis Kaleeba, NCDC's curriculum specialist, says: "A few curriculum
materials like the P.4 syllabus, teachers' guide and learners' books have
been developed, but there is still a lot to be desired. There is a
government fund to facilitate schools to buy such books, but there is none
for Kiswahili yet. "Besides, we are short of teachers. Kyambogo University
is training teachers in batches of 35. The course takes two years and we
shall be disseminating our first batch this year. These will help top up the
'scanty' ones already in the field," Kaleeba says. He adds: "The plan is to
train both pre-service and in-service teachers. Hopefully, with time, at
least each teachers' college will have one Kiswahili instructor."

With Kyambogo University and the other PTCs producing just about 100
teachers a year, it will take Uganda over a century to train enough
Kiswahili teachers to cover the 13,000 primary schools. Kibenge says: "We
are still on the drawing board. We must be sure that we have teachers in
each school first. We are also considering recruiting specialists from
Tanzania and Kenya to assist in training teachers and preparing
instructional materials, besides sending batches of teachers to these
countries for training. But there is a challenge in remuneration and
resettlement which we have to address," Kibenge says.

He says the sectoral council at the EAC secretariat is considering an East
African Kiswahili council so that member states can be assisted to promote
the use of the language, although they are asked to promote local and other
languages as well. "For starters, we shall introduce Kiswahili as a subject
in selected primary schools and progressively extend it to more, according
to increased availability of teachers and instructional materials," Kibenge

*Way forward*

Aggrey Kaggwa, the Director Kampala Institute of Languages at the National
Theatre, says: "The Government should launch vigorous public education
programmes to popularise and promote Kiswahili; mobilise the support of the
Church, other religious bodies and social organisations. Let adult and
post-literacy programmes progressively use Kiswahili as the main mode of
instruction," Kaggwa advises. "My major concern is to sensitise the public
about the need to embrace Kiswahili. It may be misinterpreted that the
Government is imposing it on the people," he says.

Rev Dr Manuel Muranga, the director Makerere University Institute of
Languages, also cautions that Kiswahili should not be 'imposed' to the
detriment of our local languages. "We still need our identity. Kiswahili
should actually be introduced in P.5 as earlier recommended. Let us use the
first four years to consolidate mother tongues; English and Kiswahili can
then be introduced," Muranga says. He hails the ministry policy, saying
Swahili will especially help promote amity between civilians and security
forces, the latter who are already accustomed to the language. Besides, it
will enable job mobility in the region."
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