Namibia: PDM Shuns Kiswahili in Government Schools

15 January 2020

Windhoek — The country's official opposition, the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM), has joined the chorus of some Namibians in rejecting the mooted plans to introduce KiSwahili as an optional language in local schools by next year.

PDM youth league spokesperson Maximilliant Katjimune said they totally reject the introduction of the KiSwahili language in Namibia's basic education system.

Katjimune made it clear that their rejection of the language shouldn't be viewed as un-African, but they are simply of the view that there are more important pressing matters at the moment that confront the Namibian basic education system.

"It is hypocritical and unpatriotic as Namibians to introduce other African languages while we, Namibians, have not even mastered our own indigenous languages.

Most Namibians can only speak their own indigenous languages, English and Afrikaans," he reacted.

Last week, New Era reported that the ministry of education said it would introduce KiSwahili as an optional language in schools by 2021.

Although this will be the first African language from outside Namibia to be taught in local schools, KiSwahili has since 2014 been a language option at the University of Namibia's Language Centre.

Education executive director Sanet Steenkamp last week said the ministry will use this year to put all plans in place in the quest to introduce Africa's most spoken language in Namibian schools.

This has been received with mixed feelings, with some opposed to the idea - hence rejecting it.

Cabinet last year directed the ministry of education to unlock the potential of introducing the language into the Namibian school curriculum. Moreover, plans to introduce KiSwahili in local schools heightened during Tanzania's president John Magufuli's proposal to the Namibian government in May last year to consider it as an optional language.

Magufuli, during his state visit, said the introduction of the language in local schools would help remove barriers to trade and also foster better relationships between the two nations and others.

"Actually, the issue of the introduction of the KiSwahili was discussed during our December executive meeting. We have looked at various options of how to go about the introduction of Kiswahili, and one of the key issues we will consider is the piloting of KiSwahili in some schools," Steenkamp said upon enquiry.

"We will use 2020 to get all the groundwork in place and also determine with the National Institute for Educational Development (NIED) on how it can be piloted."

Katjimune noted government must ensure that Namibians are patriotic and learn a different mix of Namibian languages, rather than introducing a language from a far-away country that has no "significance and relevance" to the ordinary Namibian.

The PDM youth league, therefore, encouraged the government to stop their pursuit to introduce the language and rather focus on integrating learners to speak different Namibian languages.

KiSwahili is spoken by more than 100 million people in the east, central and southern parts of Africa. It is a language that is widely taught all over the world, and the only African language among the working languages of the African Union and the Great Lakes Summits.

Proponents feel diplomats and the armed forces will, therefore, value this linguistic tool when they engage with KiSwahili speaking delegates.

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