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Scholars want Kiswahili spoken in public offices

By Nehemiah Okwembah | Dec 21st 2021 | 2 min read

Scholars have called on State departments and agencies to incorporate the use of Kiswahili in offices.

They say public institutions such as hospitals should embrace Kiswahili. Pwani University vice-chancellor Mohamed Rajab said State officers should be compelled to offer services in a language popular among locals.

He said many Kenyans seeking services in the Judiciary and hospitals came out of those offices unsatisfied because many are not conversant with English. 

Prof Raja, who spoke during the sixth international conference of Chama cha Ukuzaji wa Kiswahili Duniani (Chaukidu) held at the Pwani University grounds. said it was time Kenya promoted its own language. 

“Kiswahili has been embraced internationally but here in Kenya, we are not keen to promote it. If you want to transact business in foreign countries, they will ask you which language you want to use and if you chose Kiswahili, a Chinese in Hongkong will address you in it very fluently,” he said. 

The conference brought together members of Kiswahili associations in Africa, and was opened by Kilifi County Education and Technology executive Rachel Musyoki on behalf of Governor Amason Kingi. 

“Kiswahili started in Eastern Africa. The problem is that although it is a national and official language in some countries, our own perspectives are not conducive to promoting the language, particularly when writing our constitutions,” said Chaukidu President Leonard Muaka. 

Prof Muaka, who teaches Kiswahili at Howard University in the US, said East Africans do not value what belongs to them unlike other nations such as China which uses and promotes her own language. 

“Often, you will find that Kenyans praise things from foreign countries and vilify their own. That’s how we have strayed. In education, we value foreign things at the expense of the local,” he said. 

Dr Nancy Ngowa, the chairperson of the Department of Languages, Linguistics and Literature at Pwani University, urged Kenyan courts and Parliament to use Kiswahili in their deliberations to enable the masses understand. 

She said since Kiswahili is an official language, employers should accept job application letters in Kiswahili and in offices. 

Musyoki said Kiswahili should not been seen to be an inferior language. Participants, who included authors and booksellers, also urged East Africans to use the language in daily interactions to promote it. 

Alfonsina Ambrose from Tanzania urged Africans to embrace Kiswahili since it has its origin in Africa. 

Amira Msele Msaid from Mombasa’s Old Town area called for a change of heart towards Kiswahili.  

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