Academic journal article Journal of Emerging Trends in Educational Research and Policy Studies

National Identity and Unity in Kiswahili Textbooks for Secondary School Students in Kenya: A Content Analysis

Academic journal article Journal of Emerging Trends in Educational Research and Policy Studies

National Identity and Unity in Kiswahili Textbooks for Secondary School Students in Kenya: A Content Analysis

Article excerpt


This paper examines how issues of national identity and tribal identities are handled in Kiswahili textbooks for secondary school students in Kenya. Kenya is a multi-ethnic country whose historical record does not easily provide a common narrative with which to unify the nation. To compensate for the absence of a national narrative, textbooks propagate and advance particular themes and national ideologies such as "African socialism", "Harambee" and "Nyayoism: Peace, Love and unity" through the various genres of Kiswahili. The decision of Kenya to use Kiswahili as the national language immediately after independence came as a need to foster national identity and unity since it is the language of inter ethnic communication. Subsequent to the recommendations of past two consecutive education commissions in Kenya, the education sector strengthened the teaching of Kiswahili as a subject and a language for national unity. The Kiswahili curriculum has changed over time in the attempt to Africanize the Kenyan education. Owing to this, publishing firms have developed textbooks for Kiswahili which schools use to teach the language. To determine the extent and the nature of the inclusion of national identity in these textbooks, the study analyzed the content of 12 sampled textbooks. The findings suggest the need to improve the content of textbooks in terms of the values received in developing citizens with a strong sense of national identity and unity needed for national development. The study is useful to both scholars and the general readers in Kenya as it contributes useful knowledge on the role of language in establishing a national identity and fostering patriotism.

Keywords: national identity, unity, Kenya, Kiswahili textbooks, secondary education.


Education in Kenya must foster a sense of nationhood and promote national unity. Much as Kenyans belong to different ethnic groups, races and religions, their differences should not divide them. They must live and interact in peace and harmony. Education is an avenue through which conflicts can be resolved. The National Goals of Education leave no doubt that national unity; identity and citizenship are formulated as the primary goal of Kiswahili education in Kenya. According to Momanyi (2004), any country that values the development of its people must incorporate them in all development processes that they can comprehend, and competently use them to evaluate themselves and to implement development projects within their area. Thus the inclusion of Kiswahili as a compulsory subject in the school curriculum and the teaching of the genres such as oral literature, written literature and African short story was a move to Africanize education and develop national identity. Education and school textbooks have been one of the modern state's most important vehicles for the spread of national ideology (Woolf, 1996, p. 27). Accordingly, the role of nationalism in European and North American textbooks was thoroughly studied early on (Walworth, 1938). In the period of internationalism and anti-war sentiments following the First World War, research was initiated in order to come to terms with the excessive nationalism in European textbooks (Vigander, 1961). Recent research on textbooks has indicated that traditional national narratives have been challenged by globalization, decolonization and, in the case of Europe, the emerging construction of a European identity (Schiessler & Nuhoglu, 2005).

By now, textbooks from most areas of the globe have been investigated. For example, China was the focus of research on textbooks as far back as 1933 (Tsang, 1933), and in recent decades an increased amount of research into Middle Eastern, Asian and Latin American nationalism in textbooks has been conducted (Nava, 2006). Despite this proliferation of research, there is, however, still a lack of data on the African continent. In addition, almost all existing research into African school textbooks has focused on South Africa (Auerbach, 1965). …

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