Rwanda to make Kiswahili compulsory in schools

Thursday February 9 2017

Kenyan students who received prizes for good

Kenyan students who received prizes for good performance in Kiswahili. Left, a man reads a Kiswahili newspaper along a Nairobi street. Article 119 of the East African Community Treaty calls for the promotion of Kiswahili in member states. PHOTOS | FILE NATION MEDIA GROUP

By Ivan R. Mugisha

Rwanda plans to introduce Kiswahili in its school curriculum by next year, as the government moves to adopt it as an official language.

On Wednesday, Parliament passed the law establishing Kiswahili as an official language in addition to English, French and local Kinyarwanda.

The language will now be used for administrative purposes including in some official documents.

Currently, Kiswahili is taught as an optional subject at primary and high school levels.

“We have a good number of Rwandans who speak Kiswahili fluently, as well as courses that have Kiswahili in their subject combinations. We will now increase the level of proficiency,” Education Minister Papias Malimba Musafiri said.

“Even at EAC level, Kiswahili should be promoted, especially now that we are at the forefront of many regional projects.”

Article 119 of the East African Community Treaty calls for the promotion of indigenous languages, especially Kiswahili, as the main language to be used while dealing with regional issues.

In a phone interview, Rwanda’s representative to the East African Legislative Assembly, Martin Ngoga, said that Kiswahili will act as a unifying tool. 

“Most citizens in the region speak Kiswahili, so if it is used to debate regional issues, EAC will become less elitist,” he said. 

The language is used for social interaction and trade in many urban centres in the member states. It is spoken by nearly 50 and 70 per cent of the general public in Rwanda and Burundi respectively.

Rwanda becomes the third country in the six-member bloc to adopt Kiswahili as an official language. The others are Tanzania and Kenya.