Swahili language stands as a testament to the intricate interplay involving language, culture, and history.
Its evolution over centuries, shaped by diverse influences, has resulted to a language that bridges communities, facilitates communication, and celebrates the rich heritage of East Africa. As Swahili continues to thrive and evolve, its impact on the world stage serves as a reminder of the power of language as a tool that unites and inspires.
The Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms has recommended a radical change to the way the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) grades learners. The panel, which recently submitted its report to President William Ruto, among others, recommended that Knec drops the current grading system for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE).
The team recommends that Knec's computation of the KCSE mean score be based on Mathematics, English or Kiswahili, and five other best-performed subjects. The courses currently require higher grades in English without regard to performance in Kiswahili.
This is where my grouse with the report lies. As a Swahili enthusiast, I feel that the panel’s recommendation to either be examined in Swahili or English is not a step in the right direction. Given the fact that many African countries are embracing the language in their education systems, the proposal does not do the respected language any justice. Africa Union, East African Community, Southern Africa Development Community, have all adopted the use of Swahili language even as United Nations set aside July 7 to honour the Swahili language worldwide.
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The government should instead make Swahili and English compulsory languages in examination. Both languages are important since every student needs them locally and internationally. I know many people who have left for Europe to study Medicine and other courses deemed as lucrative. Many of them are now teaching Swahili language due to the many opportunities that the language presents.
Making Swahili a compulsory subject in educational curricula or promoting its widespread learning, can bring about numerous benefits, particularly in the context of East Africa and beyond. Here are some compelling reasons why Swahili should be elevated.
Cultural identity and unity: Swahili serves as a unifying force among diverse ethnic groups in East Africa. By learning Swahili, individuals can connect better with their cultural roots and build a stronger sense of identity and community.
Effective communication: Swahili acts as a common language for people from different linguistic backgrounds. It enhances communication and breaks down barriers, fostering understanding and cooperation among people who may speak different first languages.
Economic opportunities: East Africa is a rapidly growing economic region with a rising international presence. Proficiency in Swahili can open up job opportunities and business prospects for individuals seeking to engage in trade, tourism, diplomacy, and various sectors within the region.
Educational access: Making Swahili compulsory in schools can help ensure that all students have access to quality education. It levels the playing field, especially for those whose first language might not be English or another dominant language in the region.
Preservation of heritage: Swahili is a language with a rich cultural heritage and history. By making it compulsory, there is a better chance of preserving our heritage, and passing it to future generations.
Literary and artistic expression: Swahili literature, music, and art have been gaining global recognition. By learning it, individuals can engage with - and appreciate the creative expressions of East African cultures.
Enhanced regional integration: Swahili is spoken across borders, facilitating communication and cooperation among neighbouring countries. Promoting it can contribute to stronger regional ties and collaboration.
Global cultural exchange: Swahili's influence extends beyond East Africa due to historical trade routes and interactions. A wider knowledge of Swahili can promote cross-cultural understanding and exchange between Africa and the rest of the world.
Intellectual development: Learning a new language enhances cognitive abilities, including problem-solving skills, creativity, and memory. Introducing and strengthening Swahili in schools can contribute to well-rounded education and intellectual growth.
Diverse Linguistic Skills: Learning Swahili alongside other languages diversifies students' linguistic skills and provides a broader perspective on language as a whole.
Cultural Diplomacy: Proficiency in Swahili can be a valuable tool for diplomats and international relations professionals, enabling them to build stronger relationships with East African nations and navigate regional politics more effectively.
Respect for Multilingualism: By emphasising the importance of Swahili, societies can promote a culture of respect for linguistic diversity and encourage the preservation of endangered languages.
Incorporating Swahili into educational systems as a compulsory or highly encouraged subject could contribute to a more inclusive, culturally rich, and interconnected society, fostering a sense of pride, cooperation, and shared heritage among individuals in East Africa and beyond.
Swahili, often referred to as Kiswahili, is a captivating and culturally rich language that holds a special place in the heart of East Africa. With over 100 million speakers, Swahili is not only one of the most widely spoken languages in African, but also serves as the lingua franca for a diverse people across nations.