Implement pronouncements on Kiswahili language

Caesar Jjingo

What you need to know:

When will Parliament prescribe the domains in which Kiswahili should be used as the second official language

Since the 1980s, there have been various pronouncements, statements and provisions, issued on Kiswahili language in Uganda. Some of the well-known pronouncements can be found in the following documents; the 1992 Government White Paper; the 1995 Constitution as amended in 2005; the 2006 Uganda National Cultural Policy; the 2019 Press Statement on the establishment of Kiswahili Council and latest being those in the 2019 reformed lower secondary schools’ curriculum.

Let me accept to be naïve on the speed at which most of the above pronouncements have been implemented throughout the years. Nonetheless, I would say the speed at which the latest pronouncement(s) on Kiswahili pedagogies as provided for in the reformed curriculum, captured my attention. Indeed, I finished part of February 2020 traversing through different districts across the country while assessing our teacher trainees in their respective schools as they carried on with the mandatory school practice, a requirement in teacher education studies.

While traversing these schools, for the first time I was shocked to establish Kiswahili language being assigned teaching slots on the respective timetables, especially in schools around central Uganda, something that could hardly be the case prior to the launching of the reformed curriculum. Indeed, I was prompted to visit schools’ libraries and Dean of Studies’ offices to ascertain the availability of the instructional materials that are in tandem with the reformed curriculum.

Well, while the instructional materials were available, the quantity varied from one school to another much as the number of students per classroom was more or less the same, just like the number of Kiswahili teachers per school. It is unfortunate that I never got a chance to attend the actual classroom practices to experience the delivering of Kiswahili content in respective classrooms amidst the maintenance of the Standard Operating Procedures of Covid-19.

Nonetheless, one could wonder; how different the pronouncements on Kiswahili are in the reformed curriculum from the other previously pronounced statements in relation to the implementation lens? In other words, while there are more questions to be drawn from the pronouncements in the documents that I mentioned in the first paragraph of this writeup, for today, let the scope of questions revolve around the following. For instance, for how long shall primary school going children in Uganda wait to start studying Kiswahili language, as provided for in the 1992 Government White Paper? Still, when will Parliament prescribe the domains in which Kiswahili should be used as the second official language of the country, as clearly provided for in the 1995 Constitution as amended in 2005 and emphasised in the 2006 Uganda National Cultural Policy?

Well, as we still wait for the Parliament of Uganda to prescribe the Kiswahili domains, it is clearly stated that it is also the mandate of the National Kiswahili Council to operationalise the official status of Kiswahili in Uganda. The quick question that someone can ask here is or can be “how much more time is needed for the Kiswahili council to be established?”

In brief, these questions are helpful, for instance, in attempting to draw on key salient aspects on Kiswahili and its implementation strategies as provided for in the reformed curriculum that reviewers can capture and contemplate on during the review processes of the attested documents. As it has been earlier stated, I should emphasise that there are more questions that can be asked on the implementation of Kiswahili pronouncements in Uganda. The few questions I have posed in this writeup can serve as a trigger especially during this time when the Government White Paper as well as the Uganda National Cultural Policy are being reviewed.

Dr. Caesar Jjingo is a Kiswahili lecturer, School of Education, Makerere University.