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Not so
many people where  Usa-River, the town which is the headquarters of Meru
District, acquired its name. But it is an undisputed fact that Usa-River is
town which was inspired by the international training centre established by
Denmark in association with the government of Tanzania.

The
MS-Training Center for Developmental Cooperation, formerly known as ‘Danish
Centre’, has existed for over four decades now and the MSTCDC’s main product
package happens to be ‘Kiswahili for foreigners’. Few are aware that Kiswahili
is among the products that Tanzania has been exporting abroad. As the country’s
national language, which is also ‘Lingua Franca’ for the

East African Community
(EAC), Kiswahili is currently being packaged at the MS-TCDC’s and sold to
European countries as well as the United States of America.


“Export
here does not have to mean physically shipping goods or products abroad, but as
far as our ‘selling’ of Kiswahili is concerned, it also means selling the
language to foreigners, who actually come here to learn it and take the knowledge
with them,” explained Dr Suma Kaare, the new MS-TCDC principal.

“And our
training center has been selling Kiswahili abroad for the last 40 years earning
the country between US $ 500,000 and US $ 600,000 per year, and that is just
from our center, you can therefore imagine how much Tanzania can make from the
language if serious efforts were to be made nationwide to market Kiswahili
around the globe,” pointed out Dr Kaare. The US $ 600,000 that the MS-TCDC
makes yearly from exporting Kiswahili translates into around 1 billion/- annual
income from the National language produced at just one training center.

The
global interest in learning Kiswahili is very high and keeps increasing, we are
receiving students from the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden,
Denmark, Japan as well as a number of African countries such as Nigeria, South
Africa and Uganda. Like Tanzania, Kenya also regards ‘Kiswahili’ as the
country’s national language but most Kenyans still struggle to grasp, let alone
master, Kiswahili therefore the country has also been sending a number of
students to learn the language from the Usa-River based centre.

“You
cannot run for any public office in Kenya, including political positions
without first passing the ‘Swahili’ test, it has thus become a matter of
life-and-death for Kenyans to learn the language signaling a new demand and
market base for Kiswahili,” said Dr Kaare. At the time of the interview the
center was training nearly 30 students from the University of Minnesota and
Michigan University, both based in USA.

We
managed to talk to one of the foreign students, Ms Ulrike Doerr from the Kiel
University of North Germany. Ms Doerr teaches at the Germany University and
said she always loved the language. “Very few people speak Kiswahili in Germany
but I was inspired to learn the language after meeting a number of Tanzanian
who seemed to be very nice people such that you just feel like wanting to learn
both their language and culture,” she said.

The
MS-TCDC principal, revealed that, every year the center train over 500
Swahililearning students from around the world and the courses duration ranges
from one-week to six weeks and come under various packages. “Many intend to
work as community or social workers in African countries, other plan to teach
the language in their own countries but there are others who already work in
Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda,” said the Principal.

The
Kiswahili courses fall under the ‘Swahili and Language Cultural Skills,’ which
comprises of Intensive Swahili for Beginners, Intensive Kiswahili for
intermediary level, Swahili for beginners, and Swahili for Intermediary as well
as Kiswahili Advanced. Defence Minister Shamsi Vuai Nahodha once served as
Kiswahili teacher at MS-TCDC while former Chief Justice Augustino Ramadhani had
also taken Kiswahili courses at the centre.

But in
addition to Kiswahili, the Usa-River based centre has been offering variety of
other training courses including ‘Leadership and Management skills,’ ‘Conflict
Resolution and Peace building,’ ‘Development Studies,’ ‘Anti-corruption and
transparency,’ ‘Gender and Women Rights,’ ‘Human Rights’ and ‘Child Rights
Advocacy.’ Other courses offered at the center are, ‘Land-Food Rights and
Climate change,’ ‘Natural Resources Management and Governance,’ Policy Analysis
and Advocacy,’ ‘Civic Empowerment and Social Movement,’ as well as ‘Sustainable
Agriculture and Trade Justice.
The
MS-TCDC also offers tailor-made courses for institutions, organizations and
companies. In other words it is a fully-fledged ‘University,’ but one with an
international approach to training programs. “Every year we train over 1,700
students from all over the world and 60 percent of these are foreigners,” said
Dr Kaare adding that the center has played an important role of ‘bringing the
world to Tanzania,’ and serving as melting pot for different cultures.

But Dr
Kaare is concerned with high visa charges that foreign students are subjected
to pay when coming to attend schools in Tanzania; “It is okay to charge them
for Visas but the US $ 500 imposed to them is rather too high for students
because many of them are sponsoring themselves,” she stated. From next year
(2013) the center intends to establish Diploma courses for Swahili trainers who
intend to teach the language in other schools and colleges.

The move
is in line with the expected rise in the demand for Kiswahili to be fueled by
introduction of such courses in a number of universities around the world, the
African Union which has also adopted Kiswahili as its official language and countries
like Rwanda and Burundi that also want to take Kiswahili under their wings.
Source: Daily News

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