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Kenya told to declare Kiswahili mandatory in its communication, operations

By Joseph Muchiri | Nov 26th 2019 | 3 min read

Participants at the Embu's Kenya School of Government, Embu Campus during views collection on the National Kiswahili Council Bill 2019. [Joseph Muchiri, Standard]

Kiswahili language teachers, lecturers, and experts want the Government to maximally utilise the language in its policies and agendas’ communication to unlock its massive potential to the country’s development.

They said nations that use their homegrown languages as official language grow very fast citing Japan, China, and Britain.

The experts who spoke during views’ collection on the National Kiswahili Council of Kenya Bill, 2019 at the Kenya School of Government regretted that nation that depends on foreign languages as official languages lag behind.

They expressed concern that the envisaged economic, social and political growth in Kenya is very slow due to failure to use the constitutionally recognised national language-Kiswahili- as expected and the struggle to use the foreign English language.

Kenyatta University Kiswahili lecturer Dr Jesse Muriithi said Kenya’s faster growth will only be realised if Kiswahili is declared mandatory in all the government communication, operations and even in teaching at schools and colleges.

“A lot needs to be done to ensure the language takes the position it deserves. I propose the government makes a rule that before anybody is employed, or promoted in the public service, he should pass a Kiswahili proficiency test,” he said.

Muriithi said the establishment of the National Kiswahili Council of Kenya be funded for its operations by the state among other actors so that it can assist in enhancing the growth of the language for the benefit of all Kenyans in future.

The experts further raised concerns that Kiswahili has been denied recognition in the new Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC).

A Kiswahili teacher at Mukangu Primary School, Lincoln Muriithi, said the language has been given minimal space in the CBC in comparison to English and other subjects despite it being a language that everybody can easily understand. Muriithi said that language needs to be given attention since it is recognised in the constitution as an official language.

“It’s sad that the number of Kiswahili lessons given in the CBC at the basic level are very few and that continuing with it at secondary school level has been made optional instead of mandatory whereas English, which is a foreign language, is evaluated on its own. This will frustrate the growth of Kiswahili for self and national development,” he argued.

The National Kiswahili Council of Kenya Bill 2019 is before the Parliament on the establishment of a council to manage Kiswahili’s growth operations.

Participants recommended that all the officials of the council should have degrees in Kiswahili as a subject so as to ensure they have the interest of pushing for the growth of the language at heart.

Elsewhere in a different forum, Manyatta MP John Muchiri called for wider usage of Kiswahili in government forums.

He said Kenyan leaders attending international meetings should speak in Kiswahili and have it translated to other languages as leaders from other countries such as Japan and Germany do.

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