Gone are the days when some one speaking Kiswahili would pass for a soldier and prostitute if they were men and women respectively.
“Today, ” says Yunusu Lubuuka, the Chairperson, CHAKITAU and lecturer Kyambogo University.
Kiswahili in colleges /universities
The growth of Kiswahili in Uganda, and its being accepted by the population, can be traced back to the Ssenteza Kajubi Education White Paper of 1989 which recommended that the language be taught as one way of building national unity.
Following Kajubi’s paper, in 1990, Professor Emmanuel Karoro, then Director of National Teachers College Kakoba, started to offer training for a diploma in Kiswahili to secondary school teachers.
Professor Karoro says though there was the challenge of shortage of teachers and literature he had to begin.
Makerere University, in the mid nineties, opened a department of Kiswahili, admitting the students who had passed through NTC Kakoba. Among the beneficiaries of this scheme are Muhabwe Laban the former boss of VIPPU and Innocent Yerindabo who is currently pursuing his PHD in Kiswahili at the University of Pwani in Kenya.
Around 2003, Kyambogo University also established the department of Kiswahili.
“Today, apart from northern region, all the other regions have universities and tertiary institutions teaching Kiswahili,” says Levy Masereka, the Head of Kiswahili Department, Mountains of the Moon University Fort Portal.
Even when NTC Kakoba was upgraded to Bishop Stuart University, NTC Kabale took up the responsibility of training diploma Kiswahili teachers and according to Benjamin Turyahikayo, the principal of the college, every year they pass more than 70 Kiswahili teachers.
Turyahikayo says most students admitted for Kiswahili come from western Uganda. This is followed by central and eastern regions respectively.
To attract students from northern Uganda into studying Kiswahil1, Turyahikayo, has seceded to annually reserve 15 vacancies for them.
Other than NTC Kabale , all primary teachers colleges across the country teach Kiswahili to student teachers and there are about 500 secondary schools that have Kiswahili at O and A level. About 100 primary schools are on a pilot program of teaching Kiswahili, some of these schools are Kaboja Boarding Primary school and Nakasero Primary School.
According to Ismail Kigozi of UBC TV, Kiswahili has been broadcasted on the national media since the seventies, currently its UBC and WBS that have Kiswahili programs on TV. A number of FM stations across the country, however, are beginning to embrace and have Kiswahili programs. Though efforts to have a Kiswahili news paper and magazine have not been fruitful, there is hope that sooner than later a paper will begin owing to the increasing number of education institutions that teach Kiswahili.
The role of government
While launching the teaching of Kiswahili to the public, State Minister for East African Community Affairs Hon Shem Bageine did say that his ministry had embarked on offering free Kiswahili lessons to the public so that those that can not afford to pay for this service at universities and schools can have the chance.
Bageine said a common language would make it easier for East Africans to integrate politically. This is not the first time government is offering free kiswahili lessons to the public. The global secretariat of the Pan African Movement had earlier started such a scheme which benefitted some members of the corporate class and politicians including Kwame Rugunda, RDC Fred Bamwine, Deputy Attorney General Hon Fred Ruhindi and many others.
For about five years the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development has failed to constitute the National Kiswahili Council, the body which is meant to cordinate the spread of the language in the country. A team of experts comprising Professor Austine Bukenya, Ismail Magezi of NCDC and Dr Nsookwa made the recommendations for the council. With the East African community in the final stages of establishing the Kiswahili Commission, the national Kiswahili council in Uganda should be constituted in time so that Uganda does not lose out.
Finally, Kiswahili students in tertiary intuitions in Uganda are members of CHAWAKAMA an umbrella organization that brings Kiswahili students in East Africa together.
By Monday Akol Amazima & Julius Baluku