- Kiswahili is among the fastest-growing African languages globally.
- With no language policy to facilitate the implementation of Kiswahili and other languages, it made little progress and, as estimated, only 3% of Rwandans know how to speak it currently.
- Some Rwandan sociolinguists and researchers have been lately involved in the promotion of the development and use of this newly adopted language.
In February 2022, African Union adopted Kiswahili as its first African working language.
The continental body’s decision was strengthened by the United Nations, making July 7 the World Kiswahili Day.
Spoken by an estimated over 200 million people and taught in many universities all over the world, with Kiswahili programs by major world broadcasters such as VOA, BBC, RFI, DW, Radio Japan, China Radio International, many African Radio and TVs, and UN, Kiswahili is among the fastest growing African languages globally.
In Rwanda, Kiswahili, which was introduced during the German Deutsch East Africa comprising Tanganyika, Rwanda and Burundi over a century ago, only got recognition by law OL/02/20/April 2017, hence becoming the country’s 4th official language after Ikinyarwanda, English and French.
With no language policy to facilitate the implementation of Kiswahili and other languages, it made little progress and, as estimated, only 3% of Rwandans know how to speak it currently.
However, some Rwandan sociolinguists and researchers have been lately involved in the promotion of the development and use of this newly adopted language.
Considering the many challenges facing a nation recovering from the highly destructive genocide against Tutsi in 1994, Prof. Pacifique Malonga, a former National Human Rights Commission Research and Development Director and University Communication Lecturer, opened an Office BECOS/Kiswahili Promotion Network in Kigali.
Any project envisaged had to adopt strategic steps and Prof. Malonga had no exception in his benevolent mission to Kiswahili development and use in Rwanda and beyond.
The first frontline was to start an awareness campaign through the Rwanda national Radio and TV, which lasted ten years, being held for one hour, three times a week.
Sensitization and mobilization exercise in schools, higher learning institutions, and district management teams throughout the country followed the successful program.
In this context and perspective, many workshops and conferences organized by EAKC, ACALAN, and CHAUKIDU were attended.
The next step called upon the production of learning and teaching materials, including books, audio-visual aids and other related tools.
A friend in need is a friend indeed, and as the Kiswahili saying goes, “Undugu si kufanana, ni kufaana”, the publication of the Kiswahili-Ikinyarwanda & English Dictionary, written by Prof. Malonga and his Kenyan friend, the late Prof. Ken Walibora, and other basic Kiswahili books for beginners, greatly boosted the morale of the activist and ACALAN Commissioner.
The historical decision of the Rwandan Government to adopt Kiswahili as its 4th official language after Ikinyarwanda, English, and French by law OL/02/20/April 2017 strongly encouraged all Kiswahili stakeholders, including BECOS/Kiswahili Promotion Network, among others to thinking of greater heights.
That is how in collaboration under the auspices of Kigali Public Library (KPL), Prof. Malonga signed an agreement with KPL to start a Kiswahili section, “Kiswahili Kona,” to be developed for the use of readers, researchers, and Swahili documentation.
Calling upon his former friends, fellow university lecturers, writers, and publishers, Prof. Malonga made a giant step in which, through donations and a few purchased books, after only five years, despite COVID-19, which badly affected his efforts, Kiswahili Kona has now over five hundred books in its shelves.
The long journey still continues, with the main challenge being to establish a Rwanda Center for Kiswahili Communication Skills, with a wider scope to cater to the four ways (Writing, Reading, Speaking and Listening) skills.
The biblical verse to all those who are rich to assist, support and advocate for this noble mission is of high consideration.
The strategic plan should address actual and realistic needs and encourage collaboration with all stakeholders and the citizenry participation in Kiswahili centers of excellence serving as avenues of economic interaction and sustainable development.
The sky being the limit and the “safari yetu” still long, it’s my desire and conviction that we will make it.
We will do it by relying on the rich in the heart, for “kutoa ni moyo” (giving is out of the heart) as the holy scriptures say, “Tell the rich of this world to do good, to be rich in good deeds and to be generous and willing to share.
In this way, they will lay up treasures for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age so that they take hold of life that is truly life (1 Timothy 6:18-19).
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Prof. Pacifique Malonga, African Union Academy of Languages, Kiswahili Commissioner for Rwanda, Writer and Independent Journalist.
email@example.com Tel (+250) 784 058 500.