CHUSS Mak-RIF Project - Mainstreaming Kiswahili in Uganda's National Agenda for Regional Integration and Sustainable Development
Although Kiswahili is constitutionally recognized as the second official language in Uganda, its popularity remains low. Efforts to institutionalize and popularize it through various legal frameworks have not yielded much.
A study conducted by researchers from the Department of African Languages at Makerere University revealed that despite several efforts to promote the usage of Kiswahili within the East African Community, its popularity in Uganda stands at 29%.
With support from the Government of Uganda, through the Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund, the researchers set out to assess the challenges hampering the popularization of Kiswahili in Uganda. Under a project titled, "Mainstreaming Kiswahili in Uganda's National Agenda for Regional Integration and Sustainable Development”, the team members namely; Dr Caroline Asiimwe (Principal Investigator), Dr Bernadatte Nambi Karuhanga (Co-PI), Dr Gilbert Gumoshabe, Dr Innocent Masengo and Mr. Boaz Mutungi sought views of the populace on the factors undermining the usage of Kiswahili and made several recommendations for its popularization.
Disseminating their findings at Makerere University on 5th November 2020, the team pointed to negative attitude and resistance from sections of the population who view Kiswahili as a violent language and language of the military and thieves, as some of the factors hampering its popularization. Other factors included lack of Government commitment to promoting the language and lack of Kiswahili literature. Some respondents pointed to multilingual related factors and the love for local languages as some of the other challenges undermining the popularization Kiswahili in Uganda.
Despite the negativity about the language, the researchers noted that 97% of the respondents supported the necessity to develop Kiswahili in Uganda. This however requires commitment and concerted efforts. According to the researchers, Kiswahili like any other official language of nation states has the capacity to make breakthroughs on all development programmes. If properly managed, it can be an important enabler and driver of dialogue, reconciliation, tolerance and peace - aspects crucial for sustainable development.
In a bid to popularize the language, the researchers have called on the Government of Uganda to develop a clear Kiswahili language policy and to mainstream it in various domains of language usage. They also urge the Government to develop an action plan for the development and use of Kiswahili in its National Development Agenda. The researchers also suggest that making Kiswahili a compulsory and examinable subject from lower primary will largely promote the usage of the language in the country.
Other recommendations include the production of affordable self teaching materials, incentives in form of scholarships for learning Kiswahili, integrating the language in formal and informal activities, amendment of the Constitution to support the learning of Kiswahili, increasing media programmes in Kiswahili, identifying innovative pedagogies in teaching the language, and training more Kiswahili teachers.
Explaining how Kiswahili was promoted in the army, UPDF Representative, Can. Fred Twinamatsiko said the language is emphasized at the initial entry level and is taught and examinable.
Kampala Metropolitan Deputy Spokesperson Luke Owoyesigire informed participants that unlike their counterparts in the army, the usage of Kiswahili is still low in the Police Force. Kiswahili is just used for command. The formally recognized language in Police is English. As long as you score a credit in English and Math, you qualify to be a police officer. Any proposals to promote the use of Kiswahili in the Force are welcome and will be forwarded to the Police Advisory Committee,” he noted. The representative from the Inter Religious Council of Uganda explained that it is important to promote the usage of Kiswahili in Uganda to ease communication and business with the neighbouring countries that are largely Swahili-speaking.
In his remarks, the representative of the Makerere University Grant Management Committee, Dr Robert Wamala thanked the Government for its support towards research at Makerere. He said the project was one of the 500 being supported by the Government through the Makerere Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF).
The Principal of CHUSS, Dr Josephine Ahikire commended the team for their unique approach to research. In the course of their research, the team worked with officers from key policy making bodies. Dr Ahikire thanked the Government of Uganda for the support towards research at Makerere. Emphasizing the importance of the language, she said Kiswahili can largely contribute to Africa's decolonization efforts. “We can use Kiswahili to rebuild our identity as Africans. I appeal to the research team to spearhead efforts to popularize the language. Kiswahili should be used in every aspect of life,” she noted.
The representative of the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of East African Community Affairs in Kampala, Mr Edward Sebina appreciated the project team for the insightful research. He informed participants that as part of the EAC efforts to popularize the language, a Kiswahili Commission was established at regional level. The Commission is based in Zanzibar. Mr. Sebina called on the Government to take “tough actions” if the language is to be popularized in the country.
The event was attended by representatives from the UPDF, Uganda Police Force, the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, the Ministry of Education and Sports, the Office of the Prime Minister, the National Curriculum Development Centre and the Inter Religious Council of Uganda.
See full presentation in the attachment below.