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Wallah Bin Wallah: Why Swahili Author Who Started Out As Fishmonger Changed His Luo Name

  • Wallah Bin Wallah (born in 1956) is best known for his Swahili texts, Kiswahili Mufti
  • Before changing his name, he was known as Wallah Ndeda

The name Wallah bin Wallah stirs up a bevy of memories in many Kenyans who’ve gone through the 8-4-4 system of education. He is the brains behind a number of primary school Swahili books, Kiswahili Mufti being his most famous one. Not only has he authored books, but the former primary school teacher was also involved in the translation of the Tanzanian revised constitution.

Here is his story as told by WoK.

Wallah Bin Wallah Background and Employment

Wallah bin Wallah was born in 1956 in Mwanza Tanzania. He attended Lukungu Primary School and then proceeded to Bukumbi Primary School for two years.

After completing his class seven exams, he couldn’t afford school fees. Church missionaries took him in 1972 and enrolled him at Nyegezi seminary School.

The author stayed there for one and a half years before dropping out. The church missionaries stopped sponsoring his education after he converted to Islam.

Following this turn of events, he became a fish vendor and split his time between Mwanza and Kisumu. The Muslim Youth League sponsored him and he attended Ravals Secondary School in Nairobi.

Unfortunately, they could not sponsor him past Form Two and he resorted to business in order to raise fees. He started selling groundnuts and vegetables.

Selling Vegetables

“I would wake up at 3am, go to Marikiti, buy vegetables, keep them in my house and then rush to school,” he said.

After school, he would then package the vegetables and sell them. At times, he would also sell peanuts along Railways. 

Swahili became his passion and by the time he was completing Form Four, Wallah bin Wallah was somewhat a guru in the language.

He was offered a Swahili teaching job which paid him Sh300 monthly. Soon after completing his Form six, he joined Morogoro Teachers College. Upon graduating, he was posted to Misyani Girls’ Secondary School. 

Also Read: The Best Swahili Set Book Authors in Kenya

The young Wallah changed his Luo name from Wallah Ndeda to Wallah bin Wallah. His dream was to become an author and he feared the tribalism in the country would hamper the sale of his books.

Wallah joined Zanzibar Campus and trained in Swahili and Arabic. Returning to Kenya, he was employed at Moi Girls before moving to Mbita High School. Malenga wa Ziwa Kuu, which was his first book, was written around this time. It became a major success and various colleges used it as a course book.

Wallah Bin Wallah Teaching Job

In 1994, he resigned from the Teachers Service Commission. He then authored the book Taswira ya KCPE Kiswahili. The book’s success attracted Longhorn Publishers. They commissioned him to write course books and this is how Kiswahili Mufti and Insha Mufti came about. 

At the beginning, his books faced massive criticism. However, they have been accepted and are still used as primary course books in most Kenyan Primary Schools. 

The reputable author’s sphere of influence has also spread to other parts of East Africa where his books are also sold. He comfortably earns about Sh50 million a year through royalties. In a previous interview, he said the amount at times is Sh70 million a year. 

“Fifty Million is just an average. It could be more or less. It could even go up to Sh70 million or come down to Sh30 million per year,” he told The Standard. 

The Swahili Master also holds a Masters and PHD from Dar es Salaam University. He has also written a number of story books including:

  • Bado Mmoja
  • Kifo cha Wema 
  • Kicheko cha Maiti 
  • Zawadi ya Sanda 
  • Sitaki Simu 
  • Mbwa wa Majini 
  • Kitanzi cha Utandawizi 
  • Tumgidie Bwege 
  • Sifi Mara Mbili 

The famous author is the proprietor of Wasta Kiswahili Center and Wasta Awards. He wanted to transform the center into a training institution. Putting everything into motion and even purchasing graduation gowns, the Ministry of Education insisted the center must be a branch of a big university. Hence, the plans stalled. 

Personal Life

Wallah is married to Estallah and Silviallah Wallah. He is father to Fidia Nusra, Jeff Kauchape, Julisha Mantiki, Jitu Kamaliza, Sadfa Nana Wallah, and Zaibu Musa.

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