The Ugandan cabinet has approved the introduction of Kiswahili as an official language and ordered it to be a compulsory subject in primary and secondary schools.
The government established the Uganda National Kiswahili Council in 2019 to oversee its introduction of Kiswahili as the second national (official) language.
According to Uganda, the cabinet decision is in line with the guidelines of the 21st Summit of the East African Community (EAC), which took place in February 2021 and the Expedition to Implementing directed Kiswahili, English and French as the official languages in the block.
“The Cabinet recommended that the teaching of Kiswahili in primary and secondary education should be made compulsory and subject to examination. It was also agreed that training programs for parliament, cabinet and the media would be initiated,” said a statement on the cabinet decisions released on Tuesday.
English has been Uganda’s only official language since independence in 1962. Kiswahili was proposed as a second official language in 2005, but has only been taught as an optional subject in secondary schools since 2017.
While Kiswahili is the region’s lingua franca, in Tanzania it is used extensively as both a national and official language spoken was adopted as the official language of the EAC in 2017. EAC member states are Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and most recently the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Kiswahili has been the national language in Kenya since 1964 and has been official since 2010. In Burundi, Kiswahili became a compulsory subject from primary school in 2007, while Rwanda adopted it as an official language in 2017.
Kishwahili is the most widely spoken African language on the continent fr From Southern Somalia, Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique and the Comoros to South Sudan. The African Union made it an official language alongside English, Portuguese, Arabic and French in 2004.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC), of which Tanzania is a part, added Kiswahili to its fourth official language list in 2019 English, Portuguese and French.
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About 200 million people in the world speak Kiswahili and in 2021 the language received its biggest boost when the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared it 7th World Swahili. July 7 declared World Swahili Language Day.