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School devices means to better Kiswahili skills

BILLOW KERROW
By | March 21st 2012

By Augustine Oduor

The performance of languages in national examinations has been poor in the last few years.

Education Minister Sam Ongeri attributes the annual slump in performance to the ‘mysterious languages’ spoken by learners in schools. Analysis of the past Kenya Certificate of Primary Education and Kenya Certificate Secondary Education exam results shows performance in Kiswahili has been dropping.

The fall has been so slant that Ongeri ordered Education secretary George Godia to investigate why pupils were performing poorly in the subject.

Eunice Muteti, Quality Assuarence officer at Infill Academy interacting with nursery class pupils in Kiswahili language. [Photo: Jonah Onyango/Standard]

However, experts say the use of sheng in schools is so bad that some teachers also use it as their language of instruction. Language specialists also say poor attitude of learners and overburdened teachers contribute poor results.

As education officials seek solutions, a school in Nairobi’s Komarock Estate has found the answer in reversing the trend.

Infill Academy, which has been posting good results over the years devised a method to set proper languages foundation from lower primary.

Good grades

"We have had many A grades because we insist on use of Kiswahili right from nursery pupils," said Severino Nyaga, the head teacher.

"Last year, over 14 pupils scored A in Kiswahili with several B grades," he added. Speaking to The Standard, Mr Nyaga said pupils are only allowed to speak the official languages. "We have also advised teachers to only use the official languages as the main teaching tool," he said.

Prof Kimani Njogu, a Kiswahili scholar, said sheng should not be allowed in school.

However, he observed that if pupils can differentiate between official and social settings, sheng may not be bad. Nyaga said sheng makes it difficult for pupils to use formal words in Kiswahili. Nyaga said the school is quite particular about the teachers who handle lower classes.

"Having a university degree is not a guarantee for employment here. We only recruit teachers who are specifically trained for primary level teaching," said Nyaga.

He said teaching Kiswahili requires patient teachers and a lot of contact time with learners.

And on attitude change, the teacher said Kiswahili experts should mentor learners.

"Most students do not know opportunities for Kiswahili experts. We need to instill this in them as well," he said.

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