Dark history, teacher shortages impeding Swahili language growth in Uganda

Dark history, teacher shortages impeding Swahili language growth in Uganda
Uganda's ugly history and shortage of teachers are the main reasons affecting the growth of Swahili as Uganda's second official language

Kabale, Uganda | URN | Education stakeholders in Kabale district have blamed Uganda’s ugly history and shortage of teachers as the main reasons affecting the growth of Swahili as Uganda’s second official language.

Swahili, a common dialect among East African Community (EAC) member states, was introduced in the Uganda primary school curriculum in 2000, as a basis for advancing its use as the regional bloc pushed for integration. It was later endorsed as a compulsory subject from upper primary to secondary level.

However, the language was recorded among the 10 subjects dropped from the list of compulsory subjects during the education ministry’s effort to condense the O’ level curriculum in 2009, affecting its growth among the school-going generation of learners.

Educationists say that although Swahili is recognized in the constitution of Uganda as the second official language, the absence of teachers and negative perception about the language have greatly affected its use. Many Ugandans attach use of Swahili to criminality and violence.

Justus Mujuni, a Swahili teacher at Kabale Trinity college says that they still face a hurdle convincing learners that Swahili is a vital language for Uganda’s set up. Mujuni says that even the available Swahili teachers are losing interest in the job.

Peter Agaba, a Swahili lecture at National Teachers College (KTC) Kabale says that Swahili should be made compulsory from nursery school in order to enable Ugandans to master it.

Former Kabale District Records Officer Martin Tushabe suggests that the government starts forcing people to speak Swahili language adding that schools should equally be advised to establish Swahili debates among learners.

Prof. Joy Kwesiga, the Vice-Chancellor of Kabale University says that lack of teachers and lecturers for Swahili language has greatly frustrated its popularity in Uganda. He says for a number of years, Kabale university struggled to attract Swahili language lecturers but recruited two in the recent past.

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According to Kwesiga, Ugandans will not fully benefit from the advantages of East African Integration in terms of business, if they don’t master the Swahili language, citing an incident when the language barrier affected his ability to shop in Zanzibar.

Prof. Chomi Wesana, the Director of Post Graduate Training at Kabale University says that although the Swahili language is the official dialect of the East African Community, Ugandans still link it to Uganda’s dark history, an era where all criminal gangs and cruel government troops used as the sole mode of communication.

Tanzania uses Swahili as its official language in Parliament, Kenya’s constitution has Swahili as the National Language, while Rwanda, Burundi and Democratic of Congo use Swahili in their different aspects of social life, not provided for under any legal instrument.