The Contribution of Kiswahili in the Implementation of Mother Tongue Policy

A Case Study of Kilifi North Sub-County

Essay, 2018

8 Pages



Elizabeth Jumwa Munyaya

Department of Languages, Linguistics and Literature

Pwani University, Kenya


The paper intends to evaluate the contribution of Kiswahili in the implementation of Mother Tongue Policy in teaching of language in Lower primary. The paper examines language policy documents on the place of Mother Tongue and Kiswahili and noting that Kiswahili has enhanced the teaching and learning of Mother Tongue in the area. The study was guided by the following objectives; to identify the school languages policy pursued by schools in Kilifi County and to determine the challenges faced in the implementation of Mother Tongue policy. Purposive data for the study has been collected from the informants where focus group discussions and interview schedules were administered. The paper concludes that Kenyans need to participate in the promotion of Kiswahili if it is to contribute effectively to the teaching and learning of Mother Tongue.

KEY WORDS: Mother Tongue, Language of Instruction, Language of communication


Kenya is a multilingual country with over forty different indigenous languages. Its language-in-education policy for early primary education was enacted in 1976. Subsequent education commissions have not altered its core content. Mother tongues should be used as languages of instruction up to grade three – assumedly taking its cue from UNESCO’s (1953) position that mother tongues are ideal for early education. English takes over as the language of instruction from grade four. The mother tongue policy applies to all schools except those in urban centres in which Kiswahili should be the medium of instruction.

The debate on the use of mother tongue in education has been unresolved not only in Kenya but also in a number of African countries. The language of instruction in an education system determines the quality of education in the country and overall learner achievement.

Prah (2003) describes the language or medium of instruction as the language in which basic skills and knowledge are imparted to learners. In Kenya, the official language of instruction policy states that children have a right to be taught in the language of the catchment area in classes (grades) 1-3 (Kenya Institute of Education, KIE, 1992), in schools in the rural areas, during which English is taught as a subject in the curriculum. Kiswahili is used as the language of instruction in lower primary in schools in urban areas. From grade 4 English is used as the medium of instruction.

Machuki (2018) studied the role of school language policies in enhancing teaching and learning of Kiswahili The research found out that, schools had language policies in place though not implemented to a large extent; since most learners and teachers often communicated in their first language and in English. The study also revealed that, schools that had implemented language policies performed better in Kiswahili examinations as compared to those that did not implement such policies. The study recommended the following: School authorities should ensure that language policies adopted are properly enforced so as not to alienate or disadvantage other languages. Language policies in all schools should be stream lined and measures put in place to address the usage of sheng and vernacular in schools.

Cheruto and Orudho (2016) looked at the preparedness of Teachers of Kiswahili using the intergrated Kiswahili course. The findings of this study revealed that most teachers of Kiswahili were not competent in teaching the subject using the integrated approach and the necessary resources were not adequate. The study recommends that there should be an understanding among the teachers for the need to gain more knowledge in preparation of teaching aids for integrated approach in teaching Kiswahili. This study is different from the current one in as far as the teaching of Kiswahili is concerned.

Githinji, D.G. (2017) studied the factors affecting the teaching of Kiswahili Grammar and established that teachers’ perception towards Kiswahili grammar influenced Kiswahili teaching and learning and was positive. The research also found out that learners had positive perception towards Kiswahili language. The study recommended that teachers should be constantly engaged in refresher courses, seminars and symposia to update their skills on language pedagogy and inculcate interest to the students by lobbying for the subject as well as having sound language policy.

Timammy and Oduor (2006) posit that the treatment of Kiswahili has not been a fair one compared to English. This study by Timammy and Oduor further suggests possible reasons for the unfair treatment and note that despite the unfair treatment, Kiswahili’s use has increased considerably to a point where its achievements can be identified.

The paper by Timammy and Oduor (2006) gives this study its impetus as it outlines ways of elevating Kiswahili and goes further to observe that every Kenyan needs to participate in the promotion of Kiswahili if it is to continue growing as one of Kenya’s two official languages and Kenya’s only national language and mother tongue to many Kenyans. In Kenya, it should therefore be noted that it is used by some speakers especially in the coastal regions as a mother tongue. There are about 8 dialects in Kenya used as mother tongues along the coastal region from the Lamu archipelago to the southern coast near the border of Kenya and Tanzania (Bakari, 1982).

This study seeks to answer the following questions;

a) What are the language policies pursued by schools in Kilifi County?
b) How does the language of instruction used in lower primary in schools in peri-urban areas in Kenya benefit the learner
c) Why are teachers not using mother tongue of the catchment area as a medium of instruction in lower primary in schools in rural areas in Kenya?
d) What are challenges facing in the implementation of Mother Tongue policy in peri-urban schools and
e) What is the role of Kiswahili in the implementation of the Mother tongue policy in Kenya?


The following section provides detailed procedures, techniques and methods applied in the research.

2.1 Research Design

The study adopted a descriptive survey design. Survey is a method of collecting information by interviewing or administering a questionnaire to a sample of individuals Orodho (2009). It is the most frequently used method for collecting information about people’s attitudes, opinions, habits or any of the variety of education or social issues.

Lokesh (1984) notes that descriptive survey research studies are designed to obtain information concerning the current situation and other phenomena and whatever possible, to draw valid conclusion from facts discussed. Survey design helps collect .data from the population that is too large to be observed directly. The aim of survey design is to collect information from a sample that is a representative of the population as a whole, and generalizability that is, it will enable the researcher to use the data to make plans for, or predictions regarding the total population, it helps the researcher to ascertain attitudes and opinions as well as factual information. A survey design was appropriate because, it enabled the researcher to obtain pertinent and precise information concerning status of the role of language policies in teaching/learning of Mother tongue in Kilifi North Sub-County.

2.2 Area of the study

The study was conducted in Public schools in Kilifi North Sub county. This area being a Peri-urban was ideal for the study because it is a cosmopolitan and home to almost all the 42 tribes in Kenya.

2.3 Target Population

The study was carried out in 2 schools, where 10 teachers of Lower primary were selected for the study. The teachers were selected because the area being a cosmopolitan one, was one most schools have language policies in place, however, the mother tongue language policy was likely to face problem in its implementation because of having students belonging to various tribes in the same school.


Excerpt out of 8 pages


The Contribution of Kiswahili in the Implementation of Mother Tongue Policy
A Case Study of Kilifi North Sub-County
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
Mother Tongue, Language of Instruction, Language of communication
Quote paper
Dr. Elizabeth Jumwa Munyaya (Author), 2018, The Contribution of Kiswahili in the Implementation of Mother Tongue Policy, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: The Contribution of Kiswahili in the Implementation of Mother Tongue Policy

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free