|History and Development of Education in Uganda (Fountain Publishers, 1997, 245 p.)|
The Colonial Office was the source of policies on language and the medium of instruction. In its policy of 1925, the Colonial Office in London stated that:
...the study of the educational use of the vernaculars was of primary importance and that scholars should be aided by both government and Missionaries in the preparation of vernacular text-books. That policy also stated that English should be taught in the top classes of the primary schools so that in post primary classes, students should have a fair knowledge of English to benefit by instruction through that language.
In its implementation of that policy the Uganda Protectorate administration at first followed the Colonial policy as stated above. But when it seemed as if Uganda would be administered politically as part of the East African Federation, the Uganda Protectorate government brought in Kiswahili, a language which was not native in Uganda, and the Colonial Office had to come in to reverse the trend of things along its already stated policy of using local vernaculars at a lower level and English at an advanced stage.
By the time the Colonial Office declared its policy, the Missionaries however, had already begun to work along the lines of what the Colonial Office passed as policy in 1925. They had already learned the languages in Buganda, Busoga, Bunyoro, Tooro, Ankole, Bugisu, Teso, West Nile, Acholi, Lango and the number of languages was increasing as the Missionaries were getting into more contacts of other people in Uganda. Besides they were using such languages as media of instruction and also writing text-books in them for use at primary school level.
Luganda which by government policy of 1912 had been encouraged to be the official language in Buganda in government business besides English, had tipped the scales because of the large number of people who were speaking it in Buganda and outside. Since it was spoken in the area where all the Protectorate administrative headquarters had been established, many other people besides the Baganda had to be in contact with that language. And since the first African teachers and the British colonial collaborators in terms of chiefs were Baganda, they had helped to spread Luganda outside Buganda, making it a language for both long distance trade and education.
Moreover it is very similar to all other Bantu languages in Uganda so much so that other Bantu non-speakers of Luganda easily learnt it. So the Missionaries had already made Luganda by 1925 a medium of instruction in vernacular schools in Buganda, Tororo area, Busoga and Bugisu. Likewise text-books written in that language and religious books, were being used both in schools and churches in those mentioned areas.
Runyoro-Rutooro was being used in Bunyoro and Tooro, while Runyankole-Rukiga was being used in Ankole and in Kigezi. Luganda would not be easily acceptable in the other kingdom areas because their traditional kings were as jealous of keeping the source or the treasury of their culture as the king of Buganda was in terms of Luganda.
In the north, that is Lango and Acholi, Luo was being used, while Ateso was being used in the central portion of the eastern area. The Comboni Missionaries who had spilled over into Uganda from Southern Sudan from 1910, were battling with learning Lugbara, Kakwa, Madi and Luo in West Nile and beginning to use those languages as media of instruction and languages for vernacular text-books. But since Lugbara and Luo tended to be more widely understood in West Nile, Acholi and Lango, those two languages tended to be adopted as media of instruction and languages for text book production in West Nile, Acholi and Lango. Ateso was being used in Teso and Karamoja.
Therefore, by 1925 the Uganda Protectorate government comfortably fitted in well with the Colonial Office policy on language of developing some of the African languages as media of instruction in schools and teaching English as "a means of uniting Africa with the great civilisations of the world".
To facilitate the use of Luganda as a medium of instruction and for using it in the preparation of textbooks, the Uganda Protectorate government appointed a committee to establish a common orthography for that language because pupils attending Roman Catholic schools spelt it differently from those who were attending C.M.S. schools. Consequently, a common orthography would stop confusion. This issue of the orthography, however, remained unresolved for none of each Christian group would give up its hard worked out system of writing Luganda. The issue was only resolved in 1944 after an expert on African languages. Dr. Turner, from the Sudan, was seconded to the Uganda government by the Colonial Office to set up a practical orthography for all African languages which were being used as media of instruction in Uganda. The new orthography for the vernacular languages which was then worked out, was enforced by the examination system and separate spellings of not only Luganda but also of other languages which were Runyoro-Rutooro, Runyankore-Rukiga, Luo, Ateso and Lugbara were enforced.
Educational policy regarding language as a medium of instruction became an issue of great concern and heated debate from 1927 and eventually petered out by 1937 through the advice of the de La Warr Commission from the Colonial Office. It became an issue because in 1927 the then Governor of Uganda, Sir W.F. Gowers suggested that Kiswahili should begin to be used in government business and as a medium of instruction in schools, an issue that had been shelved in 1912. In 1927 there was talk from the Colonial Office wishing to administer Kenya, Tanganyika, Zanzibar and Uganda as one political unit. This was then referred to as Closer Union which however meant federation. This idea of federation excited the Governors of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
As a first step towards the realisation of this ideal. Sir. W.F. Gowers abruptly issued a policy statement in Uganda regarding language. He declared that Kiswahili should replace Luganda in government business in Buganda, Busoga, Tororo area and Bugisu and in schools at the lower level as a medium of instruction in those areas. He blamed his predecessors for having encouraged Luganda since 1912 instead of Kiswahili. He thus stated:
A policy by which a local dialect is encouraged (Luganda) at the expense of this widely-spread alternative language, (Kiswahili) can no longer in my opinion be maintained. The range of Luganda is in my opinion far too restricted for it to be regarded as a dominant union language.
Sir W.F. Gowers contended that since 1912, the favour given to Luganda in preference to Kiswahili had not helped Luganda to develop quickly in all parts of Uganda while Kiswahili though set "at a disadvantage", was developing on its own. The Governor had the following assumptions. He thought that Kiswahili would facilitate the development of education in a country where there are so many small vernacular languages. Since, Kiswahili was being used in the rest of East Africa and in Burundi and Rwanda, the production of text-books in it would be cheaper and communication easier.
Since Kiswahili is a Bantu language, the Bantu people who made up the greater part of Uganda, would easily master it. It would be only a few Nilotic people who would find some comparative difficulty in learning it. But even this, he contended, was not a formidable problem, since it was they who had already begun to master it up instead of mastering up Luganda.
Since Kiswahili belongs to no tribal group in Uganda it had the advantage of arousing no animosity among people in Uganda for having been picked on while another alternative local language in Uganda had been left out.
Above all, Kiswahili would save the Uganda Protectorate officers from learning a multiplicity of vernaculars on their constant transfers from one tribal area of Uganda to another. Gowers therefore concluded that "Kiswahili had been discarded in favour of Luganda for reasons which appeared by 1927 to any unprejudiced observer to be wholly inadequate".
Governor Gowers' policy statement on language and the assumptions behind it, caused so much uneasiness both in educational circles and administration that the 'Protectorate government was between 1927 and 1937 obliged to issue several statements to clear the situation about its language policy in the country. Opposition came from the Missionaries, from the Uganda elites, from the traditional kings of the south and from the general informed public, primarily down south.
The Missionaries based their opposition to Kiswahili on two grounds. Firstly, they contended that it was closely allied to Islam, and therefore to encourage it through their schools, would be facilitating the spread of Islam and its influence. Earlier on. Bishop A. Tucker, the powerful C.M.S. Bishop, had opposed the use of Kiswahili in schools vehemently which partly helped Luganda being declared an official language in 1912 in Buganda, Busoga, Tororo area and Bugisu. He had insisted that "Kiswahili was too closely related to Mohammedanism to be welcome".
The second ground for opposing Kiswahili by the Missionaries was based on the fact that it belonged to no people in Uganda and that Luganda which belonged to Uganda could be developed instead of Kiswahili for both administration and educational purposes. Moreover, it was a contradiction to tell the Missionary educators to endeavour to preserve African culture and at the same time be told to destroy people's languages. Thus the missionary point of view was partly expressed by Rev. R. Rowling as follows:
We are daily urged to retain all that is most valuable in African life and customs. Now if any African vernaculars at all are to be retained for school work, Luganda deserves a place in the first seven languages in Uganda on its own merits, and as a most valuable educational factor in itself.
Indeed the support for Luganda by Rowling and by other Missionaries both Catholic and Protestant, had also ulterior motives. Rowling for example, with a few other C.M.S. Missionaries had been involved in a lot of serious study of the language and in translational work into Luganda for the C.M.S schools. Similar efforts were being expended by the White Father and Mill Hill Father Missionaries. Consequently these Missionaries did not like to see their efforts die so naturally like that. And in fact by studying Luganda so deeply, these Missionaries had cultivated a very great liking and admiration for its rich vocabulary and viability.
There was also confusion as to whether the introduction of Kiswahili in schools, meant ceasing to use vernaculars in schools at all levels. The Missionaries got this impression though wrongly, from what was happening in Tanganyika. Kiswahili was the medium of instruction in disregard to many vernaculars there spoken even over a wide area such as Luhaya in Bukoba and Chagga in Chaggaland. Consequently, as a lingua franca, Kiswahili was destroying other local languages together with the cultures to which they were allied.
The Missionaries here were developing a keen interest in the study of nearly all African languages whose people they were getting into contact with. As they were doing so, they were teaching those people especially catechism through their languages thereby to get a more sympathetic attitude from those people and respect. In their dual purpose of spreading both Christianity and school education, the Missionaries felt that to touch the minds of the Africans more deeply, one needed to learn their respective languages and cultures so that one could talk to them through them. Therefore, on this basis, they resisted the government policy of introducing Kiswahili as a subject in schools which eventually would become a medium of instruction in schools and a lingua franca for Uganda. To clear this confusion, the Director of Education had to state in 1928 thus:
The policy with regard to language, initiated by His Excellency the Governor and outlined in the last report, has been successfully pursued. The mother tongue is taught in the first stage of the elementary vernacular schools and followed during the final years by Swahili in all provinces of the Protectorate with the exception of Buganda
The Missionaries were supported by the traditional rulers in preserving the vernaculars spoken in their areas and in opposing the use of Kiswahili as a medium of instruction. This support, however, was more evident in Ankole, Buganda, Bunyoro, Tooro and in Busoga. The support by the traditional rulers in Buganda, Bunyoro, Tooro, Ankole and Busoga, sprang at least from two motives. One was that as traditional rulers, in the politics of indirect rule, it behoved them to safeguard the customs and traditions of their respective peoples. At least this was strictly one of the major raison d'etre for the justification of their existence in the eyes of their peoples. To withdraw official recognisation of their languages in the system was the first serious step to abolishing their existence and the embodiment of their cultural pride, a thing which had already begun to develop in Tanganyika.
After a long drawn discussion of the issue in the Great Lukiiko of Buganda in 1929, Sir Daudi Chwa II Kabaka of Buganda issued the following objection to the Kiswahili policy to the Governor of Uganda:
I am entirely opposed to any arrangement which would in any way facilitate the ultimate adoption of the Swahili language as the Official Native Language of the Baganda in place of or at the expense of their own language, since I feel convinced that such a course will assuredly bring about the loss of our tribal status and nationality among the native tribes of Africa.
But Sir Daudi Chwa II did not rule out the teaching of Kiswahili as a subject in Buganda schools if such a step would enable his subjects to serve the Protectorate administration more effectively, "If especially called upon to act as Swahili interpreters in districts where Luganda was not understood".
Sir Daudi Chwa's point was taken up by the Governor who assured him that Kiswahili would not be enforced on the Baganda and that it would be taught in Buganda only if the Baganda so wished: hence the Director of Education's statement that efforts of teaching Kiswahili in all provinces were being pursued with the exception of Buganda.
Other traditional rulers raised also similar objections, the most vocal of them coming from Kasagama, the then Omukama of Tooro who wanted to see neither Kiswahili nor Luganda adopted in the Tooro Kingdom. He wanted to retain the use of Runyoro-Rutooro both in the schools and in government business and the teaching of English to his people.
The opposition to Kiswahili by the traditional rulers together with that of their chiefs was strengthened by the fear of the Closer Union of East Africa which they disliked. Thus Dr. A.B.K. Kasozi contends:
The Kings realised, like the Presidents of the late 1960's, that in an East African Federation they would become very small fishes in a very big pond whereas in their tribal kingdoms they would be sharks. It was realised that if Swahili became the medium of instruction all over East Africa, then the obstacles to an East African Federation would be reduced.
Then there was the opposition of the elites mostly from Busoga and from the kingdom areas. This opposition is best epitomised by the four men whom the Uganda Protectorate government sent to London to give evidence to the Joint Select Committee on the Closer Union of East Africa in 1931. These were S.W. Kulubya then Treasurer of the Buganda Kingdom, Samsoni Bazongere, a Ggombolola Chief in Buganda, Yekoniya Zirabamuzaale, a Ssaza Chief of Kigulu in Busoga and Kosiya Rabwoni, a Ssaza Chief from Bunyoro. Kulubya, Bazongere and Zirabamuzaale, were in favour of using Luganda and English because English opened wide horizons for their people while Luganda was their national language which should not be lost. When he was asked by a member of the Joint Select Committee as to which foreign language should be introduced and used in Uganda, Kulubya eagerly answered: "English, of course, my Lord, which is the key to everything, as it is".
Rabwoni of Bunyoro however, while insisting on the keeping of Runyoro in Bunyoro as a matter of course, expressed that he had no objection to seeing Kiswahili being taught as a subject but not to be used as a medium of instruction in "schools and the people being forced to speak Kiswahili in their native courts".
The elites were also supported by the prominent British educationists of the time, famous of them H.M. Grace, then Headmaster of King's College Buddo who expressed the view that English was the vehicle of knowledge.
To the opposition of the above people in terms of the reasons given, Kiswahili as a language suffered a social disability in the southern part of the Protectorate. This social disability is only diminishing slowly now. The man on the street in this southern part of the Uganda Protectorate, viewed Kiswahili as a language of people without a real background, the Swahili. Moreover, the first people who came to Uganda from the coast speaking Kiswahili did not inspire much confidence and respect in many seriously minded people "who considered the Swahili people to have low standards of morality and thought them as a serious temptation to the young and the unstable".
Granted that at the court of Muteesa I, Kiswahili gained a respect and the first Missionaries had to use it, the people who introduced Kiswahili as a language, the Arabs and Swahilis, were at times irresponsible, double-dealers and that the few Ugandans who learnt the language, tended to be connected with this kind of behaviour. For example, such Ugandan people would hide their duplicity by speaking Kiswahili to conceal their true identity. "Omuswayiri" in Bantu languages in Uganda, had the connotation of a person who was canny and hard to trust and a double-dealer. It was worse if a woman spoke Kiswahili. Many people would take her for a widely travelled person who had met a lot of other people of dubious character. Therefore to impose upon people a language with no local origin, which language was so connected with this kind of disability to replace other Ugandan languages whose owners respected, was looked at as an outrageous decision made by the Uganda Protectorate government.
In the absence of good speakers of Kiswahili in Uganda, also people had the impression that it was a language without grammar and any body could devise a way of speaking it anyhow. As a result one heard all sorts of constructions of Kiswahili. Since the Asians used Kiswahili more than any other people in Uganda when talking to their customers and employees, then Kiswahili became most funny if not laughable. And since the Asians were employing mostly illiterate or semi-literate people especially for sweated labour, who also tended to speak Kiswahili of all descriptions, the people down south, tended to associate Kiswahili with low paid illiterate labourers who did sweated work. The sum total of all this, made many people even if not belonging to the elite group down south, to look down upon Kiswahili. The first impression created by an African who spoke Kiswahili, was that of an African who had not gone to school.
Having gathered all the opposition from the people. Bishop J.W. Campling, Vicar Apostolic of the Upper Nile of the Mill Hill Mission, Bishop A.L. Kitching of the C.M.S. in Teso and Bishop H. Streicher of the White Fathers of Lubaga, produced in 1931 a 9 points opposition to the adoption of Kiswahili as a medium of instruction and for use in government business in Uganda. That document summed up all the feelings of the Missionaries, the elites, the traditional rulers and of the informed public.
The Bishops finally supported Luganda because it was spoken by a very large section of the people not only in Buganda. It was also akin to all other Bantu languages in Uganda and nearer to the other people speaking different non Bantu ethnic languages, than Kiswahili which was foreign in the country.
But the Bishops of the Verona Fathers mission and of the African Inland Mission both of whom were working in the Northern and West Nile Provinces, did not attach their signatures to the above memorandum. One explanation for this, is that already Kiswahili had caught on in those areas and it was helping to solve the problem for Missionaries regarding the use of a multiplicity of languages within small areas. In fact since the time it had been declared a medium of instruction in the north from 1928, enrolment of pupils had increased in primary schools as the Director of Education contended in his Education Report of 1928.
With the confidence that opposition to Kiswahili in Uganda was primarily concentrated in the south of the country, the Director of Education frowned at the above exposition of the Bishops for trying to "disassociate Uganda from the accepted policy of using Swahili as the lingua franca for East Africa, and to use one of the local tribal vernaculars as a lingua franca of the Protectorate".
Despite the Director's lashing at the Bishops, their influence was such that it should not be ignored by government. The Advisory Council on African Education in Uganda on which all the Bishops sat together with the Kabaka himself or his nominee, though the Council was chaired by the Director of Education, it revised government policy as regarded Kiswahili. The line taken in that revision was mostly intended to allay the fears in Buganda from where the greatest opposition to Kiswahili seemed to be. Thus ran the Council's statement:
The Advisory Council wishes to express very strongly the view that in Buganda Province the medium of instruction should always be Luganda. Kiswahili, however, might be introduced as a subject at a later date, if the Baganda desired to and teachers were available.
That the teacher trainees at the Government Teacher Training at Nyanjeeradde near Makerere, should be trained for teaching in Kiswahili at the K.A.R., the Police schools and selected elementary vernacular schools in the mixed linguistic areas.
That grant-aided mission teacher Training Schools at Nabumali, Ngora, Arua and Gulu should teach Kiswahili to the Teachers in training.
That in the mixed linguistic areas Kiswahili should be taught as a subject in elementary vernacular schools as soon as teachers qualified to teach are available from those Teacher Training Schools, but the local vernaculars should remain the medium of instruction.
That in the Government Technical School in Kampala which will cater for boys from all over the Protectorate, Kiswahili should be taught.
But since Kiswahili was not allowed to be taught strictly in Buganda, the idea of its gaining a firm foothold in schools would hardly succeed else where. With the opposition of both the Missionaries down south and of the Baganda to it, Kiswahili had no chance to flourish in Uganda's education system. Luganda with so many other people speaking it besides the Baganda, had also the added advantage of possessing a rapidly growing literate society and a fast growing written literature.
The Missionary efforts to translate many religious and educational works in Luganda was accompanied by efforts in original compositions by some Missionaries, by some Baganda and by some other speakers of Luganda. To this was added three popular newspapers in Luganda which were by the 1930's being published every month, namely Munno by the White Fathers, Ebifa by the C.M.S. and Sekanyolya published by some Baganda elites based in Nairobi.
As far as some Missionaries and their supporters were concerned, the battle had been won. Kiswahili would not be a medium of instruction in Buganda and in Busoga but only taught as a subject like any other subject in the academic section of the educational system. They also realised that with the African growing clamour for learning English and with the scarcity of Kiswahili teachers, the chances for the success of Kiswahili even in other areas would be very little for Kiswahili to eventually become a lingua Franca at the expense of their contention that a local language had a greater claim to being developed for that purpose and not Kiswahili.
The Missionaries however, cooperated in teaching Kiswahili according to the above decision of the Advisory Council. Especially in the grant-aided mission primary schools and in the teachers' education institutions in the North and part of the East, there was a remarkable progress. The efforts in the Teacher Training Colleges in the North and the East were supplemented by those in the Kampala Government Teacher Training School at Nyanyeeradde near Makerere. To help introduce fluency in grammatical Kiswahili, visits lasting for three months were every year being arranged for the teacher trainees in those colleges to stay at the coast in Mombasa.
At the end of 1932 the Director of Education showed satisfaction at the way Kiswahili was gaining ground as a subject and in some cases as a medium of instruction outside Buganda. He thus reported.
It is quite clear that the people in the East are on the whole in favour of the use of Kiswahili in preference to Luganda as the second language of instruction, and the very fact of the discontinuance of Luganda might help them to stand on their own feet and provide from amongst their own people both their political and spiritual mentors. In the Northern and Western Province the change also seems to be universally popular.
But the Uganda Protectorate Government ceased to be too keen on the Kiswahili policy after the issue of the Closer Union was shelved after 1933. Even the Joint Select Committee on the Closer Union of East Africa had recommended a gradual change from Kiswahili to English more especially after the views put to it by such men as Kulubya, Rabwoni and Zirabamuzaale mentioned already above.
Though efforts after 1933 continued to teach Kiswahili in schools in the North and in the East, there were no more efforts on the side of the Department of Education to press for the teaching of Kiswahili and to see to its spread. For this there were a host of reasons. One reason was that teachers of Kiswahili were too few and to produce them was quite expensive. For example, a three months stay in Mombasa by teacher trainees who were supposed to teach Kiswahili to gain fluency, was not cheap.
Secondly, the Central Schools which had been planned on a practical basis and which had a large content of Kiswahili were discontinued after 1938 due to lack of support from society for their practical curriculum which people saw as having a limited scope for the pupils who wanted to continue higher up the academic ladder.
Thirdly, on the arrival of Sir Philip Mitchell as Governor in 1935, the emphasis was on secondary education and Kiswahili was looked at as a retarding agent in this direction. Since English had to be used as a medium of instruction in secondary schools, the pupils needed to master it while they were still in primary schools and Kiswahili would retard their mastering English whose relative usefulness could not be compared to that of Kiswahili.
By 1937 even the Government Kampala Teacher Training School at Nyanjeeradde near Makerere, whose mission had been to train teachers of Kiswahili and teach it at national level closed. One reason for its closure was lack of support for teachers trained in it by the Missionaries. Since the government had only a few of its own primary schools, it was finding it difficult to post teachers from that teacher training school. The Missionaries preferred teachers who had been brought up according to their own point of view through their denominational teacher training schools.
Fourthly, Hussey and Morris both of them Directors of Education between 1925 and 1934 and who were keen supporters of Kiswahili in the educational system, got transferred to other British territories. Also the Governors under whom they worked and who had been fervent supporters of Kiswahili, Governors Gowers and Boudillion, were both by 1934 transferred from Uganda. H. Jowitt who became the Director of Education and Philip Mitchell who took over the governorship from 1935, were both not in favour of Kiswahili. With these two top government officials not being committed to the Kiswahili policy and with a strong unfavourable attitude to the language in one large section of the Uganda society, the Kiswahili issue was on its way to decline.
To the above reasons then came the advice from the Colonial Office that its original policy of 1925 should be reverted to. Consequently the government had to restate the new status quo as regarded the policy of language in the educational system. Thus Jowitt, the Director of Education stated that policy as follows: Vernaculars had to be the media of instruction except "in a very few primary schools where the students were drawn from diverse and unrelated linguistic groups where there was no dominant vernacular".
After vernaculars as media of instruction, English would take their place in the post primary educational institutions. To emphasise Jowitt's policy statement, the de La Warr Commission from the Colonial office in 1937 added that "it would be a mistake to delay the teaching of English in primary schools for the sake of Kiswahili". This then meant that English had to start being taught early in primary schools so that students proceeding there from could learn through it as medium of instruction at post primary level.
After the departure of the de La Warr Commission in 1937, there was no more serious effort expended on the teaching of Kiswahili in schools let alone to think of it as one day becoming a medium of instruction in schools and a lingua Franca in Uganda. It however, continued to be taught in the Police schools, in the K.A.R. and in some primary schools in the northern and the eastern provinces. But since Jowitt dropped Kiswahili from the curriculum of the teacher training schools both in the north and in the east, there was then a dwindling number of teachers who were involved in teaching Kiswahili in the above mentioned areas.
When the Colonial Office sent the Binns Study Group here in 1951, it continued to stress the above policy on language. It emphasized the need to use vernaculars as media of instruction in teaching at primary school level because it had been proved through research that one's own native language was the most natural instrument for acquiring knowledge at that early age.
The Binns Study Group in retrospect restated the ideas of the Phelps -Stokes Commission way back in 1925 and the ideas which the Missionaries and other educators were by then fostering. Those ideas were concerned with using the schools to preserve African culture by fostering the use of selected African languages. Already the Uganda Protectorate Government had selected the following languages in Uganda as very viable to serve large areas educationally: Luganda, Luo, Lugbara, Runyoro-Rutooro, Ateso and Runyankore-Rukiga. The government had also had the orthographies of those languages worked out and standardised in 1947 by Turner, a linguistic expert from the Sudan.
Production of books in these languages was being encouraged for use in primary schools through local education committees backed by government. The East African High Commission, was committed to publishing books in these languages once the material was vetted as good by the language sub-committees of the Education Committee in each language area. And already in these languages, history, proverbs, folk tales, riddles and infant rhymes, were being taught in schools because by so doing one could see the philosophy that lay behind African culture. The adoption of Luganda as a subject examinable by the Cambridge School Certificate Examination Syndicate, enhanced this side of approach. All this was endorsed by the Binns Study Group in 1951 as being in agreement with the Colonial Office view on language which contended that:
...the mother tongue was the most potent to awaken the dawning imagination of the Africans through songs, stories, nursery rhymes, folk tales and proverbs and that it helped the Africans to select the best from the spiritual strength of Western culture.
The Binns Study Group further discouraged the teaching of Kiswahili in the Uganda schools because Kiswahili stood in the way of teaching the selected vernaculars and English.
The East African Royal Commission of 1953 again from the Colonial Office, also advised the Uganda Protectorate administration against teaching Kiswahili in schools. The members regarded the teaching of Kiswahili as a second language to children whose early education had been in other vernaculars, as a complete waste of time and effort. In terms of knowledge, Kiswahili was not taking such children further than their own vernaculars. The members of the Royal Commission then lashed at the practice which had developed whereby in the Police and Army schools Kiswahili was the medium of instruction, saying that "the last thing that was desired was a Police Force using a language different from that of the people among whom it worked. There would develop a rift between the Police Force and the people," an observation which was not divorced from experience.
But the Uganda Protectorate government had a problem over this one. The Police Force and the Army were being joined by all members of the different tribes in Uganda who had to be posted any where in the country mostly outside their tribal areas. The majority of the recruits used to join those Forces when already familiar with Kiswahili.
Those who did not know it, easily picked it up from fellow recruits which was not the case with English. Moreover, Kiswahili of a sort was more commonly understood in all parts of Uganda unlike English. Besides, to use one of the Uganda vernaculars in the Police Force, would have invited animosity from those other members whose language it was not. Therefore the practical way for the Uganda Protectorate administration was to use Kiswahili in the Police Force.
The efforts of encouraging Kiswahili in Uganda's schools in the face of all the above opposition definitely failed though however, there still remained some signs of its being taught in some schools in Uganda so much so that by 1956 a casual observer wrote in the Journal of Africa that:
Swahili had not entirely disappeared from Uganda especially in the Northern Province where, at least during the forties, there were still some teachers left who had been trained in Swahili at the Kampala Government Teacher Training School twenty years before.
Indeed the North preserved the flicker of light of Kiswahili and its respect up to independence time. Kiswahili in Uganda tended to be popular in Karamoja, Lango, Acholi, Teso and in the area traditionally called West Nile. This was a bit peculiar because the peoples in these areas do not speak Bantu languages and therefore one would have expected Kiswahili to have been more difficult for these peoples than for those in the southern area where the languages are of Bantu origin like Kiswahili.
Several reasons can be advanced to explain this phenomenon. One reason was that the peoples in the areas Kiswahili tended to be more popular, did not view Kiswahili as competing with their own languages. Secondly, the peoples from those areas were very interested in working in the Police and in the Army Forces as a career, and since Kiswahili was compulsory, they learnt it and they saw it as an advantage to learn it before joining both the Police and the Army to pass the interview very easily. Also the Asians who employed most of the labourers knew Kiswahili of a sort. So Kiswahili helped these peoples moving all over Uganda and even to Kenya to easily be employed by Asians and saved them from the trouble of learning a multiplicity of other Bantu languages.
The 1970's were years when Kiswahili was resurrected with stronger cards to be established firmly and expanded in Uganda than during the colonial period which ended on 9th October 1962.
The following were those stronger cards. Firstly. On the 25th January 1971, Apollo Milton Obote and his first administration were overthrown by Obote's right hand man, Idi Amin Dada. At once Kiswahili came into the lime-light because it was the language of the army people who were at the helm of power. At once there was an order from the army leaders for news in Kiswahili to be read on the Uganda Radio and on the Uganda Television, ostensibly for the army men to understand the news.
The man on the street began to realise that it was advantageous to know and speak Kiswahili to be on easy talking terms with the army leaders and their rank and file. So Kiswahili began to gain status in the Uganda society though the school elites still treated it as a language of the unschooled.
Secondly, in 1972 the army leaders forced a Bill through Parliament and Kiswahili was made a national language. But unfortunately no efforts were made to teach it briskly in schools so that it would eventually become a medium of instruction and also gain a greater respectability among the students who were the future leaders in the country.
Thirdly, in 1972 Idi Amin Dada's administration expelled the Asians from Uganda to enable Ugandans to complete the cycle of regaining their independence by controlling the economy of Uganda since they had taken over the political control in 1962.
The expulsion of the Asians from Uganda led thousands of Ugandans into business. Kenya which has got numerous industries in East Africa was the immediate country where Ugandan business men and women went to import industrial goods for Uganda. A knowledge of Kiswahili and fluency in it was necessary to do business easily in Kenya. So Ugandan business men and women got out of their way to learn and speak Kiswahili to facilitate business dealings with Kenyans. And indeed the low status of Kiswahili in the eyes of many Ugandans began to decrease.
Fourthly, in April, 1979, Uganda lost her independence to Tanzania. In that month and year Obote's guerrillas assisted by the Tanzanian soldiers overthrew Idi Amin's administration. Uganda came under occupation of the Tanzanian army up to 1981. Uganda was then being ruled on the orders of President Julius Kambarage Nyerere from Dar-es-Salaam.
In regard to Kiswahili, the above period saw a great enthusiasm for that language on the part of the man on the street. Kiswahili was the language of the swarms of Tanzanian soldiers who spoke it with such gusto and intonation which easily made a great impression on the man on the street. So the Tanzanian soldiers set up a standard to be followed by the man on the street. All this helped to boost the status of Kiswahili in the Uganda society. Though the Obote II regime 1981 -85, cared less about Kiswahili, the low status which was accorded to that language prior to Uganda's regaining her independence in 1962, waned greatly.
The National Resistance Movement which took over power in January 1986 after the fall of the Obote II regime and of the Okello Lutwa administration was not opposed to the Kiswahili more so because it came into power by the use of armed forces whose language is Kiswahili. The National Resistance Council decided that Kiswahili besides English would be one of Uganda's national languages, a decision which had been already passed by the regime of Idi Amin way back in 1971.
But the Uganda National Education Policy Review Commission which was appointed in 1987 by the National Resistance Council and chaired by Prof. W. Senteza Kajubi recommended to tow a line in education regarding Kiswahili and other languages which was similar to that which existed between 1931 and 1962.
Thus in part that Commission recommended:
As a general policy, the Commission considers that the development and use of all Ugandan languages should be encouraged both in formal and non-formal education programmes at the level of basic education. This encouragement should particularly recognise the key role which language plays in cultural expression
As a general language policy in education,
The Commission further recommended that:
a. The mother tongue be used as a medium of instruction in all educational programmes up to P.4.
b. English should be taught as a subject from P. 1. From P.5 onwards, English should become the medium of instruction.
c. The area language (a language of wider communication) should be taught as a subject in primary schools. The area languages are Luganda, Luo, Runyakitara: Runyoro-Rutooro and Runyankore-Rukiga, Ateso/Karimojong and Lugbara. These languages should be examinable subjects in the Primary Leaving Examination.
d. From S.1. students will be required to take, in addition to English and their area language, another Ugandan or foreign language, English continuing as the medium of instruction.
e. The teaching of Swahili should be strengthened at secondary level in order to prepare for the training of teachers of this language.
The Government White Paper on the implementation of the recommendations of the Senteza Kajubi Commission however, was more bold on the Kiswahili issue. It thus said in part:
The potential for Kiswahili to promote the badly desired national unity is far greater than that of any other Ugandan languages. Point number 3 in the NRM Ten Point Programme provides for the consolidation of national unity. The education system will, therefore, be making its contribution through emphatic teaching of Kiswahili, towards the attainment of this goal of national unity. For, with its high potential, Kiswahili will be spread rapidly throughout the country through this policy. Its rapid development at national level will contribute to the faster eradication of illiterary, and the establishment of permanent functional and developmental literacy in the whole country. It will facilitate cheaper, easier, and faster development and production of reading instructional materials for literacy, post-literacy, adult and life long education for the various categories of the people of Uganda. This in turn will facilitate the spread of knowledge, constructive values and skills. And the above developments will certainly lead to faster socio-economics and cultural development and to the reduction of differences and elimination of animosity between people of different social groups, regions and nationalities in this country. It is also likely to promote amity between civilians and security forces-the latter who are already more accustomed to the use of Kiswahili.
Kiswahili and English will be taught as compulsory subjects to all children throughout the primary cycle, in both rural and urban areas. Emphasis in terms of allocation of time and in the provision on instructional materials, facilities and teachers will, however, be gradually placed on Kiswahili as the language possessing greater capacity for uniting Ugandans and for assisting rapid social development.
After the publication of the Government White Paper in April 1992, the public picked up the issue of the language policy in Uganda. One point of view was that Kiswahili should be selected as a national language and a medium of instruction because since it belonged to no tribe in Uganda, it would arouse less animosity among the tribes of Uganda. Moreover it offered wider opportunities for Ugandans to communicate more easily with Kenyans, Tanzanians, Rwandese and the citizens of Burundi and Zaire.
Another point of view however, utterly opposed the adoption of Kiswahili as a national language because it is foreign to Uganda though it is an African language. If there was any need for choosing a national language which should be even a medium of instruction in schools, at least a Ugandan language should be selected. This point of view was however, vehemently opposed from several quarters because the obvious language was Luganda which is understood and spoken in all parts of Uganda and it is akin to all Bantu languages in the country.
Another point of view was that both Kiswahili and Luganda did not offer wide enough chances for communication outside Eastern Africa. And both languages are limited in terms of educational applicability. Therefore to get out of the tangle, the only way out is the use of English as a national language and as a medium of instruction in education. Ugandan languages should be taught and used at primary school level as the Senteza - Kajubi Education Commission had recommended. And Kiswahili should be taught as a subject as a means of assisting communication with Kenyans, Tanzanians, Rwandese and the people of Burundi and Zaire.
This debate is still going on. But the point of view of leaving English as the official language and as a medium of instruction after Primary Four, would be a more viable proposition in terms of national unity, international communication and economy. Thus we would be reiterating Kulubya's statement of 1931 when interviewed by the Joint Select Committee on the Closer Union of East Africa in London, "English, of course my Lord, which is the key to everything, as it is".
Looked at from both a national and a world perspective however, Ugandans should aim at securing a means of oral communication universally at national level and at international level beyond the confines of East Africa. Therefore it is the acquisition of fluency in English which should pre-occupy the minds of Ugandans besides developing their indigenous languages for cultural preservation.
AD 2003 has been earmarked for launching universal and compulsory primary education in Uganda. If every child goes to school for at least eight years, after fifty years from AD 2003, every Ugandan will be fluent in English. He or she will then be in contact with all the economic, social, political, cultural and scientific knowledge of every country in the world for his/her benefit and for the benefit of Uganda.
If English is adopted as a medium of instruction from primary five through tertiary institutions and as an official language, the issue of language in Uganda and educational instruction will be dynamic. English will prevent the development of emotionalism, sectarianism, reactionary and prejudice which hinder progress.
Besides, regional co-operation comprising East Africa, Central Africa and Southern Africa and Pan-Africanism will be better served by English than by either Kiswahili or any Ugandan indigenous language. English will help Uganda's capacity to participate in international affairs and to share relatively cheaply in the rich world wide educational and scientific developments of every kind. Uganda will also be in the new world order which is fostering and endeavouring to make Europe one village, America one village, Australia one village, Asia one village, New Zealand one village and Africa one village and eventually the whole world, one village.
This will foster national unity, regional cooperation, Pan-Africanism and internationalism per excellency which Uganda is now seeking to achieve through its language policy by way of medium of instruction in her education system and by way of an official language. Therefore the eventual adoption of Kiswahili as a medium of instruction through Uganda's education system and as a national languages does not have the above advantages for Ugandans. To reiterate Kulubya's contention of 1931 that English is the key to everything as it is, would serve Uganda best of all. Adopting Kiswahili or any Ugandan indigenous language as a national language and a medium of instruction would be only postponing the problem and wasting much of the scarce resources of the country. English will eventually prevail in the face of the trend of things of reducing the whole world to one village.
But this should not be interpreted to mean that the Ugandan indigenous languages should be neglected in the education system. They should be encouraged and developed because they are the treasury and embodiment of our valuable cultures and strength. In both this cultural heritage and the reduction of the world to one village, Kiswahili has got no place in Uganda.
To bring to a wholesome end the protracted discussion on the medium of instruction in Uganda's schools and on the official language of Uganda, the new Constitution has eased the situation. Thus reads Article 6 of the new Constitution: "English is the official language of Uganda."