NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
Widespread use of native languages will restore
Kenya’s rich cultural heritage while promoting national
cohesion, experts have said.
Speaking at a public forum ahead of the International
Mother Language Day to be observed on Feb. 21, Kenyan
scholars regretted that native languages have lost allure
thanks to urbanization.
"As a country, we need to reorganize school curriculum
and make it mandatory for young learners to have acceptable
literacy and fluency in their native languages," said
Lillian Kaviti, a linguistics scholar at the University of
The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
(UNESCO) has designated Feb. 21 as the International Day to
honor linguistic and cultural diversity.
Kenya is signatory to global instruments that advocate for
preservation of local dialects.
During her maiden speech at a public forum, Kaviti said
that Kenya has a linguistic diversity that should be
harnessed to promote the pursuit of collective aspirations.
"We have a huge repository of local dialects that have
glued us together as a nation.
"These native languages are integral part of cultural
tourism," said Kaviti.
UNESCO has organized a series of public forums in Kenyan to
mark 15 years since the adoption of International Mother
Senior Kenyan officials earlier reaffirmed the
government’s commitment to promote native languages in
"We are promoting teaching of mother tongues in lower
primary school in order to nurture a critical mass of young
Kenyans who appreciates our indigenous heritage," said the
Minister for Education Jacob Kaimenyi.
He said that literacy in native languages boosts
cognitive abilities among young learners.
The young generation of Kenyans has a negligible grasp of
indigenous language and culture thanks to rapid urbanization and
the influence of a mass media.
According to Okoth Okombo, a linguist at the University
of Nairobi, Kenya is among African countries where native
dialects are facing the threat of extinction.
"Many urban children have limited exposure to native
"Our school curriculum emphasize on use of foreign
languages to gauge a learner’s intellectual capacity,"
Okombo said that native languages will promote patriotism and
self esteem among Kenyan youth.