Scholars disagree on use of Kiswahili at tertiary education
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Mama Salma Kikwete

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AFRICA’S Kiswahili Ambassador Salma Kikwete yesterday applauded the government for promoting Kiswahili despite the language’s limited vocabularies.

Opening a one-day dialogue on Kiswahili in Dar es Salaam, Mrs Kikwete said all the five regimes have exceptionally worked to promote Kiswahili, noting that Mwalimu Julius Nyerere laid the firm foundation for the language during the country’s independence struggles.

She said the leaders who came after Mwalimu Nyerere worked hard to promote the language through not mixing English words with Kiswahili in their speeches, noting that the fourth regime went further to have the language declared one of the African Union (AU) official languages.

Mrs Kikwete praised President John Magufuli who has opted to use Kiswahili in international meetings and conferences. “Kiswahili has played a critical role making what Tanzania is today in terms of unity and development.

If there are people not knowing Kiswahili, they are very few and mostly those who lived outside the country for long period,” said the Ambassador. The former First Lady told those faulting Kiswahili that every language borrows words from others because of interactions and influences, citing Kiswahili, which has borrowed words from Arabic, Germany, Portuguese, India and English.

“There is nothing wrong if we continue borrowing words from other languages whenever it’s necessary,” she stressed, calling for constructive discussions to avail the government with the best way forward to use Kiswahili as the medium of instruction and teaching at higher level learning institutions.

The discussion elicited heated debate with a good number of discussants supporting the use of Kiswahili while others opposed, calling for increased vocabularies before it can be used for teaching at tertiary education.

Dr Michael Kadeghe, one of those who opposed the use of Kiswahili at university level, faulting the authorities responsible for the language promotion, preparing and publishing Kiswahili dictionaries, saying they were providing misleading meanings of words.

Dr Kadeghe said although Tanzania prides itself for pioneering Kiswahili, a lot of those teaching the language in foreign colleges are from Kenya whose medium of instruction in school is English. “TUKI and English Swahili dictionary have a lot of difficult vocabularies while others are meaningless, providing meaning and definitions different from the English words,” he added.

Dr Adolph Mkenda, an associate Professor of Economics of the University of Dar es Salaam, currently serving as permanent secretary in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment stressed on improvement of the language before using it as the medium of instruction at university.

He said the language must have enough teaching vocabularies before it can be used, citing many countries like China, Sweden, Japan and Germany that use their own national languages but have hitherto introduced courses at higher learning institutions in English.

He said the focus should be on addressing the quality of education rather than blaming the language of teaching as instrumental to lowering the quality. He criticised most proponents of Kiswahili in the decision making level yet educating their children in English medium schools.

Dr Mkabwa Manoko of UDSM on the other hand stressed that various studies conducted have shown that students perform well when taught in the language they understand, Kiswahili in the Tanzania’s case.

Former Senior Lecturer of UDSM and current Director General of Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation (TBC) Dr Ayub Rioba said the media has played a significant role in promoting Kiswahili since independence.

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