Mother tongue education in Kenya: significance, challenges and prospects in a multilingual situation
The importance of mother tongue(s) (also referred to as vernaculars or indigenous languages or African languages) in the cognitive, linguistic, personal and educational development of children cannot be overemphasized. Indeed it is out of this recognition that the UNESCO declared 2006, the Year of African Languages. In spite of this, the language policy in Kenya before and after independence has been tilted in favour of English and to some extent Kiswahili, at the expense of mother tongue(s).
The big question posed in this paper is: When will the mother tongue(s) in Kenya take their rightful position in the education system? This paper aims at analysing the language policy as far as mother tongue education (MTE) is concerned in Kenya within an historical perspective. Of particular concern is the significance of mother tongue in the school system, the wider community and the nation.
The paper addresses some of the persistent problems and challenges that hinder the teaching of indigenous languages in Kenya. Suggestions of possible strategies that can be used to revitalize mother tongue education in Kenya are highlighted.