There are a huge number of different languages in most African countries, but typically only one or two of them are recognised as national languages in order to make communication more effective. However, many remote rural and pastoralist groups do not speak the national language, despite it being the language of instruction in their children’s schools. This creates a huge problem for children in these communities because from the first day of school, they are not able to fully understand the content of their lessons. For many children, this lack of understanding will negatively impact on their entire education, leading to poor performance and high rates of drop-out. Without finishing school, the cycle of illiteracy and poverty continues.
There is a solution to this problem. Research shows that teaching learners in their mother tongue in the first three or four years of school improves their performance and makes them more likely to complete their education. This has been internationally acknowledged, and many countries now prescribe mother tongue instruction in primary schools. Unfortunately, without teaching materials and teacher training, it is very difficult to provide.
How does it work?
By teaching children in their mother tongue when they start school, learners are not only able to learn more quickly but are better prepared to learn the national language or any second language e.g. English. This sets them on course to receive all the benefits that are available to people who complete their education.
We provide the training and develop the learning and teaching materials required, to teach learners in their mother tongue. We work to produce early reader books and other materials to support literacy and numeracy that are locally appropriate and culturally relevant. This can range from reading material derived from local stories and poems to material that addresses important social issues such as healthcare.
In supporting local language instruction we work closely with parents in the community, who are often keen to have their children instructed in the national language, seeing this as the language of success. We help parents to understand that local language literacy will better prepare their children for the future, and we also support parents themselves to gain local language literacy, enabling many of them to read and write for the first time in their lives.
Who does it help?
We started our Ugandan MTE project in 2009. We developed early childhood education materials and training resources in five local languages. These are now being used in six districts and reached over 100,000 children and their parents. These tools were incorporated into the national teacher training curriculum, and are now available for any teacher seeking to offer instruction in these five languages. This video provides a greater insight of the project -Transforming Learning and Teaching Experiences via Mother Tongue Education in Uganda.
Our Kenyan MTE work has grown over the last four years, we now work in 27 primary schools and 45 Kindergartens.
This means we have now reached over 7000 learners. Our learning resources aren't just geared towards preschoolers we have also ran programs with over 800 adults and have provided them with functional literacy and and numeracy classes in their first language.