Schools in South Africa adopting the Kiswahili language


Whoever came up with the adage “Kiswahili kitukuzwe” spoke plainly. The Republic of South Africa has become the first African country in the Southern part of the continent to offer Kiswahili as an optional subject. This move has seen opportunities for the language to grow.

The South African government plans to introduce the language in 90 schools. Other languages to be taught along with Kiswahili are Mandarin, German, and French.

It will be the first time an African language not spoken in the country is offered. South Africa has already reached out to Tanzania and Kenya, requesting them to help in recruiting qualified teachers.

Addressing the issue of xenophobia

Besides cementing the indigenous languages in Africa, South Africa hopes the move will foster peace and help address xenophobia problems. Since 1994, the vice has resulted in the deaths of about 300 people and 600 reported attacks.

During a media interview, the spokesperson for South African’s Department of Education said. “We have had a lot of challenges when it comes to xenophobia and using derogatory terms when referring to other African people. That shows that we do not understand that we are actually of the same origins. If we want social harmony and cohesion, language is the best vehicle to do that.”

SADC recognition of Kiswahili language

Last year, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) confirmed Kiswahili to be its fourth official language. It came after English, French, and Portuguese. The meeting happened under the leadership of Tanzanian President, His Excellency John Pombe Magufuli.

“Our vision for language planning stems from intellectualization of indigenous languages on four spheres—provincial, national, regional, and continental level. Swahili is inevitably well-positioned to integrate the SADC region,” stated the chairman for the Pan South African Language Board.

Kenya and Tanzania use Kiswahili as their national language. There are over 200 million speakers of the language right from Burundi, Malawi, and northern Zambia in Southern Africa, Comoros Island, Mozambique, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and small groups in urban areas of Uganda.

Kiswahili also a language for AU

In 2004, Kiswahili was made an official language for the African Union after English, Arabic, Portuguese, and French. According to John Mugane’s book, ‘The Story of Swahili,’ he says, “is to eastern and central Africa what English is to the world.”

“Although Swahili lacks the numbers of speakers, the wealth, and the political power associated with other global languages such as Mandarin, English, or Spanish, it is distinctive in being primarily a second language for close to 100 million speakers,” the writer states further.

Since its implementation as one of the languages of the AU, and southern African’s embracing the language, much is needed to make Kiswahili known both regionally and continentally.

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