The Ssenteza Kajubi Legacy: The Promotion of Teaching Kiswahili in Uganda.

Author:Jjingo, Caesar


This review article is motivated by the annual memorial lectures for Professor William Ssenteza Kajubi (hereafter, Kajubi). Kajubi is so central to debates of education systems in Uganda that since 2015 there have been annual lectures, organized by the College of Education and External Studies, Makerere University - the oldest and leading public university in East and Central Africa, in memory of his work. In 2015, for instance, the lecture was entitled "Rethinking Uganda's education system" and it explored among other things, curriculum reforms in the country. The lecture for 2016 was entitled "Fostering the Quality of Education in Uganda" and among other issues, it was expected to discuss a way forward to adjust the current education structures with an aim of developing the quality and value of education that Uganda experienced prior to the 1970s (Evans and Kajubi, 1994: 144). These lectures are evidence that the educational-related contributions of the late Professor are still significant in the education system of Uganda given that the views advanced by various scholars and academicians in such debates contribute to influence the education-related decisions, policies, and practices in Uganda.

In brief, Kajubi, a Ugandan, was remarkably an accomplished academician, educationalist, administrator, consultant as well as a community leader. Upon completing his Bachelor of Arts with Diploma in Education, at Makerere University, in 1950, Kajubi enrolled for a post-graduate course, Master of Science in Geography, at the University of Chicago, and graduated in 1955. Kajubi is said to be the first African to be awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study in the United States of America in 1952. In 2010, Mbarara University of Science and Technology awarded Kajubi an Honorary Doctoral degree of Science. From the 1950s, Kajubi worked for different institutions in various capacities, including, as a secondary teacher; University lecturer; Principal of Kyambogo Institute of Higher Education; Director of National Institute of Education at Makerere University; twice, as Makerere University Vice Chancellor; and Vice Chancellor of Nkumba, a private University in Uganda. In other responsibilities, Kajubi was the first chairman of the Association for Teacher Education in Africa. In addition, he served as the Vice-President of the International Council of Education for Teachers. Lastly, he is also remembered for being a consultant for the Namibian National Education System upon Namibia's independence in 1990.

Since the introduction of Western Education around the last quarter of the 19th century, in the Uganda's education system (cf. Ssekamwa, 2000: 40-42; Ssekamwa and Lugumba, 2001: 2-3; Tiberondwa, 2001: 34-35; 81-82), there has been several education commissions established to reform the education systems in both pre-and-post independent Uganda. Some prominent commissions include; the Phelps-Stokes commission (1925), the de La Warr commission (1938), the Castle commission (1963) and the 1977 and 1987 Kajubi commissions (Evans and Kajubi,1994; Ssekamwa, 2000; Tiberondwa, 2001). While the terms of reference for the commissions have been different from one commission to another based on, mainly, the educational needs in each era, the implementation of their recommendations have been, to a certain extent, unattainable for different reasons.

The recommendations, for example, from the report of Kajubi's (1977) commission were submitted to the Ministry of Education in February 1978. However, soon after, Uganda was plunged into war as Ugandan exiles based in Tanzania sought to liberate their country from the dictatorship of Idi Amin. Subsequently, the 279 recommendations in the report were never implemented as the commissioners felt it was not desirable to share the report with the cabinet or the public immediately. They assumed the report could be used in the future after the war. Thus, the report was shelved by commissioners and few other members of the commission's subcommittees.

While the final report of the Kajubi (1977) commission was neither edited nor printed for circulation, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (as cited in Evans and Kajubi, 1994: 138), notes that from that report, the then government, led by President Apollo Milton Obote, drafted a shortened summary statement as a basis for the Government's White Paper (GWP). According to Evans and Kajubi (1994: 138), this statement has never been used or implemented. Nevertheless, all the commissions note that one of the common dilemmas that the commissioners have been preoccupied with is, for instance, the question of the language of instruction, especially in primary schools of Uganda. See, for example, Mbaabu (1991: 84), Evans and Kajubi (1994: 147), Ssekamwa (2000: 133), Ssekamwa and Lugumba (2001: 8-9) and Ssebbunga-Masembe (2003: 145-146).

Kiswahili (language) Issues

Different reports of the education commissions have often been received with mixed reactions from different stakeholders in and outside the education sector particularly regarding the language-related recommendations (Ssekamwa, 2000: 134; Ssekamwa and Lugumba, 2001: 27; Ssebbunga-Masembe, 2003: 146). Subsequently, many of those recommendations have, often, never been fully implemented. For instance, in relation to Kiswahili in the Phelps-Stokes (1925) report, Tiberondwa (2001: 76-77) argues that the commission recommended the language of instruction in middle grades be Kiswahili (cf. Msanjila et al., 2011: 108-110). In view of the above recommendation, two years later, according to Ssebbunga-Masembe (2003: 146) and Ssekamwa (2000: 133), the then Governor of Uganda, Sir W. F. Gowers, issued a policy statement on language and declared Kiswahili as a language of instruction in schools within regions that previously used Luganda as a language of instruction.

Ssekamwa and Lugumba (2001: 8) contend that the other advocates for the use of Kiswahili as a language of instruction in Ugandan schools, including Hussey, the Director of Education, viewed Kiswahili as a common communication tool that could ease communication gaps across ethnic groups, and different societies within the East African region (cf. Kaplan and Baldauf Jr., 1997: 4; Msanjila et al., 2011: 69). Similarly, such proponents advanced the view that books written in Kiswahili could also be read by those who had not learned English or not attended school (cf. Mukama, 2009: 100).

Nevertheless, the recommendations on Kiswahili from the Phelps-Stokes (1925) commission report were opposed, for example, by some prominent British administrators, the missionaries, Ugandan cultural leaders/rulers and some elites (on the various opposing views, see for example, Pawlikova-Vilhanova, 1996: 167; Ssekamwa and Lugumba, 2001: 9; Ssekamwa, 2000: 134-137; Mulokozi, 2009: 74). Whiteley (1969: 69-70) and Ssekamwa (2000: 134) stress that the two major reasons for opposing Kiswahili include: (i) associating the Kiswahili language with Islamic religion whose followers, mainly the Arabs, promoted slavery activities which were regarded as unreligious and inhuman by, mainly, the Christian missionaries; and (ii) that unlike Luganda language, Kiswahili was unattached to any ethnic group in Uganda (Whiteley, 1969: 70; Massamba, 2007: 98, 2015: 264; Msanjila, 2011: 4).

Subsequently, Kiswahili remained a school subject in only a few schools (Ssekamwa, 2000: 141), especially in areas with learners from diverse linguistic...

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