Dar es Salaam. Former First Lady Salma Kikwete has said while it remains important to promote the use of Kiswahili in all sectors of the economy, the need to improve the teaching of other languages in schools should not be understated in a globalised world.
Mama Kikwete made the remarks yesterday during a language debate held in Dar es Salaam under the theme ‘It’s time to use Kiswahili in all sectors’.
“I firmly agree that Kiswahili should be used in teaching because the more we wait the more challenging it becomes to use,” she said in her opening speech.
But Mama Kikwete, who was the guest of honour, noted that the need for proficiency in “other languages” is still a reality that people face in various sectors of the economy -- especially in the job market and in business interactions.
And in his contribution, Prof Kitila Mkumbo, a senior lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam, sought to dismiss theories linking mass failures in school to language.
He said research suggested that language was not a factor among the reasons for mass failure in schools, even at the primary level where all subjects are taught in Kiswahili.
The professor argued that pupils and students can easily learn any language as long as the government invests in it, in terms of teachers and textbooks. Even when the government invests in English, the students will learn and understand, he noted.
“What I am trying to explain is that if the government invests in any language, it will be easy to teach. English or Kiswahili -- let the children choose the language to use in examinations...have examinations written in both languages,” he said.
And various participants during the debate raised concerns over what they said was lack of will by the government to legally recognise and promote Kiswahili as an official language in the country.
A legal expert, Prof Abdalla Safari pointed out that Tanzania was yet to make Kiswahili an official language because there is no legal document making it so. He said the government had been hesitant to use various research recommendations on the role of Kiswahili.