Kiswahili dream drags on as government looks for funds

Saturday August 17 2013

Pupils of Victorious Primary School in Mukono District.

Pupils of Victorious Primary School in Mukono District. The government promised to recruit Kiswahili teachers. FILE PHOTO 

By Patience Ahimbisibwe

Kampala- Four years since the government committed to introduce Kiswahili as part of the school curriculum, little progress has been made, with the government now saying it needs Shs20 billion to finance the programme.

In 2008, former Minister of State for Higher Education Gabriel Opio said the government would recruit 950 teachers to teach Kiswahili in secondary schools, following the formation of the East African Community.

To date though, nothing has been done, raising questions as to whether the government pronouncements were ever realistic.

However, State Minister for Primary Education Kamanda Bataringaya said: “The curriculum is ready but we have to train teachers and equip them with the skills needed. Once funds are availed, we can start rolling it out in primary schools next year.”
There are 135,000 primary teachers on government payroll but only 20 per cent have been trained to acquire the Kiswahili language competencies expected to be implemented in all primary schools under the Universal Primary Education programme.

In a recent interview, the head of pre-primary and primary department and coordinator of Kiswahili activities at the National Curriculum Development Centre, Mr Vincent Funi Dusabe, said the body was only waiting for funds.

The Kiswahili curriculum was started in 2010 and was taken for piloting a year later in nursery schools, Primary One and Primary Four. At least 50 schools were sampled in the country’s traditional regions.


“After a year of piloting, Kiswahili language experts at Makerere University evaluated the curriculum and in their report, recommended that the entry point be in Primary Four,” Mr Dusabe said.

“The reason was that in nursery, the child has not even mastered their mother language while in Primary One to Three, they are using the thematic curriculum, which emphasises the use of the mother tongue as a medium of instruction.”

Right timing
According to Mr Dusabe, Primary Four is a time when pupils are in transition to use English as an official language. Here, the experts urge, a child has mastered their mother tongue and hence find it easy to learn a second language. The pilot has now reached Primary Five and ends in the Second Term of Primary Six.

Mr Dusabe argues that with the few teachers they have been able to train, the progress shows that they can use their own teachers without hiring from outside the country. Once rolled out, the language will be compulsory and examinable after four years.

“We oriented Ugandan teachers who didn’t know any word in Kiswahili and they have performed well. This informs the government that we can continue to retool our teachers and they do better without necessarily importing from East Africa,” Mr Dusabe said.
Earlier, Education Minister Jessica Alupo said the ministry was in plans to start importing Kiswahili teachers for the proposed curriculum at the end of the year.
“This is something that has been planned and talked about for years but we are effecting it soon; towards the end of this year,” she said.

However, she indicated that the government had not yet decided on the specific number of the first batch to bring in; but negotiations were on-going with Kenya and Tanzania, where Kiswahili is used as a language of instruction.
“We are still trying to study whether to put these teachers directly in our schools or place them in the teacher training institutions.”
In the 1992 government White Paper on education policy review commission report: ‘Education For National Integration and Development’, it was suggested that both Kiswahili and English be compulsory subjects throughout the primary cycle in both rural and urban areas.

However, she said implementation of the programme has been delayed by inadequate funding.

“We believe teaching Kiswahili will promote rapid and solid regional cooperation between Uganda and our neighbours,” Ms Alupo said.
“And that partly explains why we pushed the new O-Level curriculum to 2017 so we can implement this.”

Although it is not clear whether the government imported these teachers, Mr Dusabe said primary teachers’ Kiswahili curriculum was rolled out in January and will be examined in December. This will enable the country channel out primary teachers with the language competencies.

“Students in Primary Teachers’ Colleges started studying Kiswahili this year. We expect the first cohort in two years. I hope the government will be able to absorb them,” Mr Dusabe said.

Shs20b: The amount of money that the government needs to roll out the teaching of Kiswahili in primary schools.

18,000: The number of primary schools registered in Uganda. All these will be required to carry on Kiswahili as a subject.