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Saturday, 15 January 2011


Many reasons have been given for the poor performance of Kiswahili, in the 2010 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education. From poorly trained teachers, mother tongue interference, to the street parlance known as Sheng, and the media. The other issues have been expounded on greatly in the media but can the same media report about its own failure to nurture Kiswahili?

The Swahili have a saying: 'Kinyozi hajinyoi,' which when loosely translated means a barber cannot shave himself. This practically could explain, why the Kenyan media has been a bit timid, when it comes to pointing an accusing finger at itself.

But at times, some good can come out of being one's own harshest critic. As a journalist, I have my own share of verbal faux paux and admitting them is not shameful. So, how does the media contribute, especially to the degradation of language skills?

It has been argued that people made famous by constantly featuring in the media, (celebrities?), more often than not end up influencing the mannerisms of their audience, because of rightfully or wrongfully being regarded in high esteem.

So what is likely to happen, if a popular comedian like Churchill uses a grammatically incorrect word like 'overspeeding,' when delivering one of his rib-crackers? There is a chance, however small, somebody somewhere will repeat the same mistake.

And as for Kiswahili, highly rated television programmes like Papa Shirandula thrive on a systematic and deliberate massacre of acceptable syntax, to reflect ethno-stereotypes that have been the lifeblood of Kenyan comedy.

It can be argued that the antics of comedians are serving a different entertainment purpose and linking them to exam performances is far-fetched.
But ultimately, the joke could be on that examination candidate using phrases like, 'mtoto changu,' and 'kalamu vyake!' as heard in local television or radio.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I agree with you Mr. Gachiri. Many may not understand your very strong point now (unfortunately), but they'll finally come back to it after going round.
The media has an unprecedented influence (positive or otherwise)on the society. Its sensitivity should not be a point of debate here; but rather a matter of life and death.
Wimbo mui hauongolewi mwana. Loosely translated as, 'Don't use a bad song (with obscene language) to entertain a child. WHAT WILL PREVENT THE CHILD FROM LEARNING AND USING THE OFFENSIVE WORDS ELSEWHERE?