Dar es Salaam. Tanzania said yesterday that it would cooperate in every possible way with Botswana after the southern African nation announced plans to start teaching the Swahili language as a subject in schools.
On Tuesday, the Botswana minister for Basic Education, Mr Fidelis Molao, told a language teaching workshop in Francistown - Botswana’s second-largest city, - that Swahili would be introduced in schools in the near future.
The Southern African Development Community (Sadc) region, Mr Molao said, is set to become one of Botswana’s major trading partners with many Swahili-speaking countries.
This, he said, meant that Botswana needed to prepare as it aims to push for an exports-oriented economy.
Reacting to the news, the National Kiswahili Council of Tanzania, - commonly referred to in its ki-Swahili acronym ‘Bakita’ - said yesterday that it was ready to cooperate with Botswana following the latter’s announcement of plans to introduce the language in its education system.
In August last year, the Sadc member states approved Swahili as the bloc’s fourth official working language.
This was in recognition of the contribution of Tanzania’s founding President, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, in the liberation struggles of the entire southern Africa.
Although Tanzania is yet to receive an official letter from Botswana, Bakita sees it as an opportunity worth grabbing, no questions asked.
While appreciating the Botswana move, Bakita’s acting executive secretary, Consolata Mushi, said it was a great honour to see Swahili continuing to spread across the African continent and the globe at large.
“We understand that this is coming from one of the senior leaders in Botswana. As a Council, we haven’t received any official communication on when exactly the plan will be launched; but we want to closely follow it up,” she told The Citizen over the phone.
She added: “We are ready to extend cooperation if Botswana need publications or teachers. We will not hesitate to send them because we have enough Swahili professionals on our database.”
Ms Mushi also reiterated to all Swahili language professionals in the country not to hesitate to follow up and apply whenever such opportunities present themselves.
“I urge our Swahili experts across the country to grab such opportunities, instead of only waiting for an announcement from the Council. They should follow up and submit applications quickly,” she said - stressing that “we are going to follow up, and we can support expansion of the Swahili language.”
Swahili is a Bantu language widely spoken in Tanzania and other parts of eastern and south-eastern Africa. It is the official language of Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. It is also a lingua franca throughout East Africa.
English, French and Portuguese were the three languages used by the Sadc nations for official communication before Swahili was added as the fourth.
Botswana will be joining several other countries in the region that have started implementing plans to adopt Swahili in their educational systems.
Others are South Africa and Namibia.
In September 2018, South Africa’s basic education minister Angie Motshekga announced that Kiswahili had been approved as another language that will be offered to learners in South African public, private and independent schools.