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PROFESSOR OF KISWAHILI

I wrote on an earthen floor — Kibabii VC

He launches his autobiography in English, 'The Silent Footsteps'; admirers throng the event.

In Summary

• Prof Ipara is among those behind Kiswahili textbooks and dictionaries used in secondary schools since President Moi ordered Kiswahili be a mandatory subject.

• He recently launched his autobiography in English, says he started learning in a mud classroom with grass-thatched roof and wrote on an earthen floor.

Kibabii VC Prof Ipara Odeo during the launch of his biography, 'The Silent Footsteps'.
VC BIOGRAPHY: Kibabii VC Prof Ipara Odeo during the launch of his biography, 'The Silent Footsteps'.
Image: JOHN NALIANYA

"I started learning in a mud, grass-thatched school and we wrote on the earthen floor."

That's how Kibabii University vice chancellor Prof Isaac Ipara Odeo describes his early education. He is now an acclaimed professor of Kiswahili and an icon to many.

He recently launched his highly anticipated autobiography, The Silent Footsteps or Hatua za Kunyatanyata. It is expected to be translated into Kiswahili.

Figures from other universities streamed into the institution to have a taste of the polished tales of the professor.

Education ministry CAS Zack Kinuthia attended, as did Prof Inyani Simala, an executive secretary in the East Africa Kiswahili Commission. He had been a student of his icon, Prof Ipara.

Ipara is among the people behind Kiswahili textbooks and kamusi used in secondary schools since President Daniel Moi made Kiswahili mandatory.

“…I started formal education at Masaek School in Mount Elgon in 1962. It was made of grass-thatched muddy classrooms. Mostly, we wrote on the earthen floor. We also had some classes being conducted under a tree…”

 “…While teaching at Kaimosi and Siriba TTCs, I interacted a lot with university lecturers and professors. We engaged in endless academic discourses. This heightened my desire to teach in a university, besides climbing the academic ladder to acquire a doctorate…,” Ipara wrote.

In his address, Ipara said Kiswahili was endangered due to many factors, notably lack of resources, teachers and laziness.

Teaching Kiswahili started in 1964."There is a need to teach it as it has a wider readership and is growing daily. Languages have their rights, just like human beings," Ipara said.

"Therefore, Kiswahili has the right to be used as national language," he said.

CAS Kinuthia said he would champion more scholarly works in Kiswahili for the government.

"I urge Prof Ipara to rewrite his autobiography in the Swahili language and translate it to other African indigenous languages. Some of the translated copies should be submitted to Kenyatta Memorial Library for the public," the Education CAS said.

He said Kiswahili is slowly finding its way into government.

“Today, the Swahili language is being used in the Parliament, which was not the case in recent years. We as the government shall work with scholars and channel enough money into learning Institutions for research purposes,” the CAS said.

(Edited by V. Graham)