Uganda is still dragging its feet on implementing the use of Kiswahili as a national language even though it approved the setting up of a Kiswahili Commission as required by the East African Community.
In an interview with the media, Professor Austin Bukenya of Makerere University, who has authored several books in Kiswahili, says the Commission is part of plans to regionalize the language. In order to achieve this goal, Prof. Bukenya says there is need to make the Kiswahili Commission operational.
Prof. Bukenya explained that under the Commission, members of all the East African Community recognize the usage of Kiswahili. He pointed out that the Democratic Republic of Congo has shown interest to be part of the Commission.
Under the East African Community, English remains the official language, but Kiswahili is represented as a Lingua Franca – meaning that the language is still at the development stage. This is to give time to specifically Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, where the language is not in everyday use. Ironically, Prof. Bukenya noted that Uganda was ready to host the Head Quarters of the Commission.
Arinaitwe Perpetua, a Kiswahili Specialist at the National Curriculum Development Centre, argues that training of Kiswahili in institutions of learning is the way to go.
Only recently, after the review of the Uganda Pre-Primary and Primary curriculum, Kiswahili is now a taught subject, but for many schools, the idea is still lying on the bookshelves.
Some public and private schools in Kampala have the language on Primary Four to Primary Seven timetables.
At Secondary and tertiary levels, Chawakama, a forum – for East African Kiswahili Students, is making some inroads to promote the language. Just last week, Chawakama held its national conference at Kyambogo University.
So far, only Tanzania uses Kiswahili as its official language in parliament, Kenya’s constitution has Swahili as the National Language, while Rwanda, Burundi and Democratic of Congo use Swahili in their different aspects of social life. In Uganda, it is the main language for communication in the military.