South African Minister for Basic Education Angie Motshekga said Monday that Kiswahili will be introduced as an optional subject in schools from 2020.
This will be the first African language from outside South Africa to be taught in schools. This step has been taken to foster a greater unity on the African continent.
“Kiswahili has the power to expand to countries that never spoke it and has the power to bring Africans together,’‘ Motshekga said. “It is also one of the official languages of the African Union. We are confident that the teaching of Kiswahili in South African schools will help to promote social cohesion with our fellow Africans.’‘
Schools in South Africa offer French, German, and Mandarin as options for foreign language.
This move by the government is also an effort to decolonize Africa so that people from different countries do not have to speak in a foreign language like English. Last month, South Africa’s leftist opposition leader Julius Malema said that Kiswahili should be a common language that is used throughout the continent in the decolonization effort.
Kiswahili is a Bantu language with lexical and linguistic similarities with many African languages spoken on the continent. It is the first language of the Swahili people. Kiswahili is a lingua franca of the African Great Lakes region and other parts of eastern and south-eastern Africa, including Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Mozambique, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In May, Twitter officially recognized Kiswahili as a language, making it the first African language to be on Twitter.