PRESIDENT John Magufuli has been awarded the Shaaban Robert medal by the Kiswahili Council of Tanzania (BAKITA) for his role in advancing the language within and outside the country.
BAKITA, which also awarded Tanzania Standard Newspapers' Habari Leo as best local newspaper for enhancing better use of the language, said President Magufuli had demonstrated undiluted support to the progression of the language.
“President Magufuli has enhanced the growth of translators and interpreters as professionals, especially during his meeting with foreign leaders,” said Dr Method Samwel, the BAKITA Board Chairman.
Dr Samwel added that President Magufuli has also opened up opportunities for Kiswahili tutors in various countries around the world.
At the award ceremony, presided over by the Zanzibar Second Vice-President Mr Hemed Suleiman Abdalla, BAKITA said the team of experts, including departments of Kiswahili from across universities in Tanzania, as well as associations of Kiswahili professionals, had unanimously nominated President Magufuli for the award.
Dr Samwel said they all agreed that his support which also includes amending the BAKITA 1967 legislation, as well as developing regulations in 2019 qualified the Head of State for the top medal.
“During his first inaugural speech in 2015, President Magufuli insisted his government will enhance the use of Kiswahili language.
“In his foreign trip in May 2019, the President promised to offer trainers of the language in Zimbabwe and Namibia," he said, emphasising that the President efforts also made Kiswahili an official language of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) block in August 2019.
Initially, the awards which were launched in 1995 to recognise exceptional contribution that advances the native language set key principals for recipients. They include having produced Kiswahili books, being able to advance the language within and outside the country, contribute to positive changes, as well as best leadership.
The Isles Second Vice-President Mr Abdalla urged the private sector to take up the challenge and set up Kiswahili training schools in foreign countries, assuring them of the government support.
According to the Vice-President, developed economies have been able to converge their languages and cultures in which countries such as China is increasingly penetrating its language to facilitate trade and relations.
“It's a good thing. The government is ready to support such initiatives and I suggest to begin with SADC member countries,” he said.
Mr Abdalla said Kiswahili is currently one of the official languages of the bloc and Tanzanians are set to benefit through training, translating, book writing and interpreting.
The council recognised the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) as a best higher learning institution for its research and formalisation of Kiswahili. It also awarded David Masamba as this year's best Kiswahili book writer.
On media houses, the council recognised state broadcaster—TBC Taifa as the best radio station adopting fluency and standard Kiswahili grammar. TBC was followed by ZBC radio and Wapo FM.
Clouds FM was recognised as the best radio in developing vocabulary. It was followed by Kiss FM and UN radio. BBC Swahili and Radio One were recognised as best radios for vibrant Kiswahili debates and an overall radio in developing Kiswahili language respectively.
TBC One television was awarded a distinction in moral protection while ZBC TV, ITV and Channel 10 being awarded for their best use of language and debates in first, second and third press respectively.
In addition to HabariLeo recognition as the best newspaper, Zanzibar Leo and Mwananchi newspapers were also recognised for their fluency and standard use of Kiswahili language grammar.