Uganda will introduce Kiswahili as a compulsory subject in primary and secondary schools this year as a way of integrating fully with the other EAC partner states.
Uganda joins Rwanda in the list of regional countries seeking to boost their language use as they seek opportunities in the integrated EAC where English and Swahili are the main languages of communication.
Rwanda -- a largely French-speaking economy -- is planning to hire at least 4,000 teachers from the East African Community as it scales up the use of English as the language of instruction in schools. In Uganda, Kiswahili is only taught as an optional subject but will be compulsory in the planned reforms for 2012/2013.
According to Connie Kateba of Ugandan National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC), the rollout of the language will be done in phases starting with the senior levels.
"We have been working on a revised curriculum for the schools," said Ms Kateba.
"This is the only way our country will benefit fully from the EAC integration because Kiswahili is the most popular language in the region especially for business and communication," said Ms Kateba.
She said that as the integration deepens with the inception of the Common Market Protocol, it will be important for Ugandans to speak Kiswahili to avoid lagging behind.
Many schools in Uganda have avoided teaching Kiswahili as a compulsory subject due to limited materials in and teachers of Swahili.Kenya and Tanzania are the only EAC countries where Kiswahili is taught as a compulsory subject in both the primary and secondary schools and is used as one of their national languages. Burundi introduced compulsory Kiswahili as a subject from primary school level in 2007.
Kenyan EAC Social Affairs Director Richard Sindiga said Kiswahili has a big chance of fast tracking the East African integration process if hiccups facing its use in the region are resolved once and for all.
"Kiswahili can serve as an important tool in forging the much awaited political federation in the region," said Mr Sindiga.
Tanzania which uses the language more extensively than Kenya has made it compulsory that all subjects in primary school are taught in Kiswahili.
Currently English is the only official language of the EAC, but Kiswahili is recognised in the treaty as the lingua franca.
Burundi and Tanzania have proposed the amendments of Article 137(1) of the treaty to provide for French and Kiswahili as official languages of the East African Community.
However the Kenyan Assistant minister for East African Community Affairs, Peter Munya, argues that there is no need for EAC to add other colonial languages like French to the list of the regional official languages as proposed by Burundi.
"In my view, since the EAC already has English as an official language there is no need to add another colonial language to the list," said Mr Munya.
"There is logic in Kiswahili being an official EAC language because it is a local tongue and widely spoken across the five member states of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda."