Efforts to have a National Kiswahili Council of Kenya are in top gear as various stakeholders input their views into the draft bill from the ministry of Culture.
Various stakeholders, among them Kiswahili writers, journalists, teachers and lecturers, researchers assembled at Eagle’s Haven Hotel, Kakamega on Friday to contemplate on the provisions of the draft bill before a final document to be presented to the National Assembly for debate is agreed upon.
The event was graced by Director State department of Culture and heritage in the Ministry of Culture and Sports and Kibabii University Vice Chancellor Prof. Isaac Ipara Odeo.
Kiswahili growth a tremendous story
Addressing around 50 stakeholders in attendance, Dr. Pamela Ngugi from Kenyatta University stated that Kiswahili’s fast growth was insuppressible and irresistible urging Universities to develop ore policies aimed at leveraging Kiswahili –Africa’s largest in born language.
Dr. Ngugi lamented the fact that instead of developing and giving more opportunity of growth to Kiswahili language, some Universities were on the forefront of killing the language by for example doing away with Kiswahili Departments as standalone departments.
‘’It is a shame, a disgrace, that some of our universities are not giving this great language the respect and honor it deserves. It is a pity,’’ she says.
Her sentiments are echoed by Prof Ipara who states that Kiswahili has experienced tremendous growth over the years and that should not be taken for granted.
The ever passionate VC, as far as Kiswahili is concerned, reiterates the need and urgency with which the council must be established, terming its establishment as a great step towards its continued promotion in recent times.
‘’This journey has not started today. And it is not over yet, but the steps we have made are so impressive and worth a pat on the back,’’ says Prof. Ipara.
‘’It irritates and suffocates to see some people ganging up to see to it that these efforts do not bear fruit.’’
Media in hot soup, receive blame
And media was not left out in his sideline interview with West Media, Ipara complaining that some media houses and personalities who broadcast in Kiswahili, or something close to it, were part of the forces pulling back this noble course.
‘’In as much I want to commend West TV and West FM for broadcasting in Swahili language, and good Swahili at that, I wish also to express my dissatisfaction at how these good efforts are infiltrated by others’ poor usage of this great language.’’
Others who attended the consultative meeting praised the draft bill which they noted would help solve some of the challenges that have been facing Kiswahili –Kenya’s official and national language.
‘’The many errors that have been the story of the day in our published books and other publications will be a forgotten story if a Council is in place,’’ says Geoffrey Mandila, a writer and consultant.
Council composition and roles
The Kiswahili Council creation once approved by the National Assembly upon receiving the draft bill from the ministry of Culture and Sports, will give way for a powerful state entity that, as per the draft document as by Friday 23rd August 2019, will have a Chair and 11 Council members chosen from various relevant fields –Media, teaching profession, writers etc plus the Attorney General and four Principal Secretaries in Culture, Finance, East Africa Affairs and Education ministries.
The Council whose roles will include promoting Kiswahili –Africa’s only out of the 2000 indigenous languages official language, advising the Government on matters related to Kiswahili promotion and usage, doing translations, research, taking of publishing of publications.
Apart from the National Kiswahili Council of Kenya bill 2019, the ministry also presented the National Language policy draft, a bill intended at promoting and regulating the usage of Kenya’s indigenous languages.