How EAC is developing Kiswahili in the region

By Monday Akol Amazima

Kiswahili other than being the lingua fracas of the East African Community, one of the working languages of the African Union, it is the most spoken or used African language South of the Sahara. Being the lingua fracas of the East African Community it follows that the language has got to be developed in the six countries that form the community. And this introduces us to the East African Kiswahili Commission (EAKC) whose headquarters are in Zanzibar. It was officially launched or instituted in 2015 with Prof Kenneth Simala a former professor of Kiswahili at Maseno University in Kenya appointed as it first Executive Secretary. It is one of the commissions through which the East African Community extends serves to the people in a given field.

What the commission has done so far

Since its inception is 2015, the staff has traversed the East African region meeting stakeholders to ascertain the levels at which Kiswahili is being used or developed in the member states save for South Sudan that is a new entrant in EAC. EAKC has held a number of stakeholders meetings drawing participation from all the member states to discuss how collectively the languages can be developed in East Africa and beyond.

1n 2016 at Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) in Nairobi, the commission thoroughly developed and discussed the five year strategic plan on how to develop Kiswahili not only in education institutions but also in the media and the general public.

The commission has organized conferences with the latest being the September 2017 conference that was held in Zanzibar that saw many scholars in and out of Africa attending and presenting papers. Notable was the key note speaker Professor Alamini Mazrui. The conference was also graced by the second president the united republic of Tanzania Alhaji Al- Hassan Mwinyi who is known for his love for the development of the language. While officiating at the opening, the vice president of Tanzania Mama Samia Suluhu Hassan stressed the need for other East African states to expeditiously embrace Kiswahili and an integration language

What the commission intends to do

In March 2018 EAKC trained at least three people from each member state that are going to train other stakeholders in doing research. EAKC is in the process of doing research to know exactly how Kiswahili stands in each member state. The findings and recommendations of the research will help EAKC plan for each country on how Kiswahili will be developed in that particular country.

Coupled to the  above, the commission intends to carry out mobility or staff exchange programs where by professional in Kiswahili from one country can go to another country in the region for a period of about a month to share experiences. Where need be teach or learn from where they have been posted. Here institutions of learning, the media, and curriculum development institutions are among the beneficiaries. According to Prof Ken Walibora the chair of the East Africa Kiswahili Journalist Association (CHAWAKIMA), this move will help countries that are still lagging behind to get experts that can boast Kiswahili in their intuitions

South Sudan the missing partner

The Executive Secretary of EAKC Prof. Kenneth Simala says whereas other countries in the region have ably been represented in activities of the commission, it has not been easy to get representation from South Sudan. However EAKC is thankful that the African News Journal, the Public Lense and Juba Monitor have provided a platform for sensitizing South Sudan on the importance of developing Kiswahili and the commission. It is highly expected that with the efforts of Juba Monitor much will be achieved and South Sudan will be able to carry out research like other member states from May to June 2018.

Challenges of the commission

Like any other organization, EAKC has got a number of challenges. According to Professor Kenneth Simala, funding, limited number of staff are some of the big challenges. The commission that is supposed to have over 30 members of staff is run by less than 10 people with most senior positions vacant. This makes the Executive Secretary to do most of the work. This is why at times the commission fails to attend some Kiswahili activities in the region even when they have been invited.


The author is a teacher, journalist, Pan African and works with Uganda Broadcasting Corporation +256701734677

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