The Swahili


The BBC offers a fine website with both lengthy articles and a great section on the right side of the home page) of links to paragraph-long documents, & information on several key topics.

a lot of good information in short, accessible format on the language and culture, including a Swahili language lesson

a lovely set of 8 photos of Swahili cities—past & present, boats (dhows) and more.

our website with a wide array of teaching resources for all grades: lesson plans, tips specifically for teaching about Africa, short annotated bibliographies for different ages, ordering information for traveling kits and our poster, “How Big s Africa.” See esp, the traveling kit “The Kenyan Kids Kit” which circulates in its multiple copies through the mail and locally.


“The Leopards of Zanzibar” a classroom-appropriate video about a soccer team called “The Leopards” who go from winning the local match played on a sandy beach to the national championship. You follow these young Swahili men, as they practice, fish, and earn money for their costly trip to Tanzania’s capital. Great for middle school up or excerpted for younger grades.

“Kings and Cities” from the video series Africa, by Basil Davidson. A 30 min video segment on Swahili history with fine visuals of coastal cities and trade. Available for purchase from or for borrowing from BU’s African Studies Center.

Print Material

Be careful of any materials which focus on wildlife or on the Maasai people, as they are neither typical of East Africa nor a significant part of Swahili life.

Gila Monsters Meet You at the Airport, M. Sharmat. While not on Africa, this Reading Rainbow amusing selection tells a story of a New York City boy’s stereotypes about living in the southwest. For elementary and middle school.

Moja Means One and Jambo Means Hello, both by Tom & Muriel Feelings. A beginner perspective introducing Swahili culture through stories, using numbers and the letters of the alphabet. For elementary schools.

Fatuma’s New Cloth, Leslie Bulion. A sweet story of an east African child going to the market with her mother to buy a kanga. For elementary schools.

Africa s Not a Country, Margy Burns Knight. Introducing American kids to Africa’s diversity by seeing the variety of things children do around the continent. A terrific teaching guide, Step into Africa, can also be borrowed or bought.

The Mcheshi series of books (available through BU or is a dual language (English and Swahili) series of books originally published in Kenya. The books follow a Kenyan child as she goes on a trip, to market and to school. For elementary schools.

“Swahili” Faces magazine. (the whole issue). For middle school.

Ibn Battuta in Black Africa, eds. Said Hamdun and Noel King. A well-introduced set of documents by the great Muslim traveler who vividly but briefly recounts his visits to the Swahili coast in the 14th c. For middle school up.

Eastern African History: African history in documents, ed., Robert O Collins. An excellent collection of primary source documents for teaching, including but not limited to Ibn Battuta. Accompanied by a short introductions and an overview. For middle school up.

Other Resources:

BU’s African Studies Center has many additional resources for teaching about the Swahili, from kangas (cloth) to simple Swahili recipe books, to model boats/dhows, to textbooks from Kenya and Tanzania and more. The director of the Outreach Program, Barbara Brown, a former middle school teacher, can assist you in planning a unit or finding additional resources than the few highlighted here. In addition, the Center has a vast array of resources for teaching on the other regions of the continent.

Barbara B. Brown, Director
Africa in Our Schools & Community Program 617-353-7303