Tag Archives: National Language Kenya

The Power of the National Language, Point Blank with Asian Weekly 21st July 2017


Kenya gained independence in 1963 and the young country is learning to cope with its challenges. From the upcoming General Elections to the everyday living of school, work and life there is a lot to look forward too.

The Kenyan history has been rich with historical figures from Tom Mboya, Makhan Singh, the Mau Mau Movement and much more. Subsequently it is important to keep it on the mind and especially so for the younger ones who will go on and becoming earning and voting citizens of the Nation.

Kenyans hail from the Bantu peoples who come from the African Great Lakes region and today we know them as for example Kikuyu. When it comes to the languages, while the Southern Bantu speak Zulu, the Eastern Bantu or the Swahili people speak Swahili. Swahili comes from the Arabic word Sawahil meaning coasts and it quickly took form in the Coastal region of the Indian Ocean. Around 1700 there is evidence of Swahili letters and it was not until June 1928 that an inter-territorial conference took place in Mombasa. This included representatives from Kenya, Tangayika, Uganda and Zanzibar to formalize Swahili for those areas.

In 2016 Kenyan Government made Kiswahili mandatory for all Kenyan schools and in a recent move the former Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i announced that it would also become part of the curriculum of all the international schools from September onwards after the August General Elections. They must also include Kenyan history as part of their learning subjects.

In almost all countries the national language is part of the national education curriculum. For example in India students learn in the Hindi medium and neighbouring Tanzania adopted Swahili at all its levels of education as the language of education from March 2015. However this move seems drastic especially in the times of increasing globalization. Having Kiswahili as part of the curriculum for all Kenyan schools is smart, since it is the main language of communication. But to try and shut out from the world which is speaking hundreds of languages and trading mostly in English, French and Chinese. According to one list, the top ten most spoken languages are (in order of first to last):

Chinese, Spanish, English, Hindi, Arabic, Portuguese, Bengali, Russian, Japanese and Punjabi.

Bringing national history across all schools is also an important move especially because it will make the younger ones and in some cases parents aware of what has transpired in the Nation. A good national lesson in history is always useful. International schools may argue that they do not have allegiance to any nation, but if you are based in a particular country then that country is hosting you. Thus, it is important to respect their culture and history too.

There might be a school of thought that why should be keep the adopted language of the colonial nation? Well, English being the 3rd most spoken language is necessary to get work done, education earned and relationships built. A complete isolation will only leave the population behind in every way.

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Posted by on August 11, 2017 in Uncategorized


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