Jitters as Namibia’s opposition resists adoption of Kiswahili

17Jan 2020
The Guardian
Jitters as Namibia’s opposition resists adoption of Kiswahili

NAMIBIA’s centre-right opposition Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) has expressed dissatisfaction with the government’s move to include Kiswahili in its curriculum beginning next year.

National spokesperson for PDM's youth wing, Maximalliant Katjimune, has said it is "hypocritical and unpatriotic" for the country to introduce other African languages in schools while citizens have not even mastered their own indigenous languages.

This comes after the Ministry of Education earlier this year announced it will introduce Kiswahili as an optional language in the Namibian school curriculum in 2021, on a cabinet directive.

"The Popular Democratic Movement Youth League totally rejects the introduction of the Kiswahili language in our basic education system. We would like to make it clear that our rejection of the Kiswahili language should not be viewed as non-African, but we are of the view that there are simply more important pressing matters at the moment that confront our basic education system," Katjimune said at a press briefing this week.

Katjimune stressed that most Namibians can only speak their own indigenous language, English and Afrikaans, insisting that it must be the aim of government to ensure that Namibians are patriotic and learn a different mix of Namibian languages rather than "introducing a language from far-away which has no significance and relevance to the ordinary Namibian."

"We therefore urge the Swapo government to stop their pursuit of kiSwahili and rather focus on integrating learners to speak different Namibian languages," he specified.

PDM, formerly the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA), is an amalgamation of political parties in Namibia which is registered as one singular party for representation purposes.

In 2018, Namibia’s neighbour South Africa announced that it would start teaching Kiswahili as an optional language beginning this year, making it the first African language outside South Africa to be offered in class.

Education minister Angie Motshekga said then that the move was meant to promote unity and “social cohesion with fellow Africans.” Anti-immigrant sentiments have brewed in South Africa in the past decade, leading to sporadic attacks on the homes and businesses of communities including Malawians, Somalis and Nigerians.

The push to embrace the Kiswahili language comes as African countries look into plans to reform and critically assess their education systems. There’s also the recognition that the continent needs a new strategy for mother-tongue based education from primary through to tertiary level education, and to cast aside dependence on foreign languages.

This realization also arrives as African languages continue to die as governments adopt official languages while discouraging local ones, in hopes of forging harmonized national identity.