Written by Phanice Chepkemoi
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For many years the Sabaot People have longed for the complete Bible that would bring lasting peace and harmony among the people as they reconcile with Almighty God.
After a 32 year journey of developing the Sabaot language and translating the Bible into the language, 10,000 printed copies of the Sabaot Bible will be dedicated and launched Sunday in Kibuk High School, Kapsakwony, Bungoma County.
The journey begun in 1932 when Zakaria Ndiema a non-sabaot who was a tax clerk of Chief Tendet wrote the book in the language using an orthograph that was not suitable for the sabaot language. It was this book that stirred the mind of the local native councilors and students because they thought they were insulted.
Between 1948-1949 a group of students including a member of the LNC Mr. Livingston Naibei formed a committee to replace the first sabaot book. The main purpose was to do research on how the sabaot language should be written.
Between 1950-1954 a language committee was formed and after several meetings in Kapsokwony they agreed that the three dialects, Bong’om, Book and Kony should be used. They established an orthograph that was based in Kiswahili system then four people were authorized to write each a primer but only R.Joseph bortar was able to produce the first book with 38 pages.
In 1955 the manuscripts were used in teaching standard one children but lack of finances for printing the materials stalled the work.
In 1978-1979 several headmasters including church leaders had a discussion on how to preach to the sabaot people in their vernacular instead of Swahili which they decided to go to the Bible Society of Kenya if they could produce a Bible in Sabaot language.
The Bible Society started to research to see whether the sabaot would use the translation in sebei language but it was found to be negative. An alphabet was produced, rules of grammar identified, literacy classes started and after some time they translated the gospel of mark into sabaot.But it was identified that the language has twenty vowels and thirteen consonants and that is why it made sabaot language difficult to be written because they were using five vowels as in Kiswahili.
Steady progress was made in the development of the sabaot language, several books were written, and literacy programmes were significant progress. In April 2003 the sabaot mother tongue education programme in schools was initiated in order for the primary school teachers to know how to read and write their language. Today there are over 100 titles available in the sabaot language.
With all the challenges of staff, finances and ethnic land issues the church leaders together with the community.
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