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KEYNOTE ADDRESS

By Dr. Cleophus Mugenyi, Commissioner Teacher Education Standards, Ministry of Education and Sports Uganda.

At The First Regional Symposium on Mother Tongue Education (MTE): Change to Implement Quality and Inclusive MTE in Uganda, 23rd February 2013, White Castle Arua

INTRODUCTION Distinguished participants, Ladies and Gentlemen It is a great honour for me to deliver a key note address at this very important symposium. I would like to extend my sincere gratitude and appreciation to LABE for the initiative to implement MTE in this region, the achievements registered and all stakeholders that have participated in this project since its inception in 2009. I would like to thank LABE for organising this symposium and to recognise the efforts of other stakeholders that have made it possible for this symposium to take place and more importantly at this material time. Today is an important day in the history of this region, and marks a beginning of another chapter in enhancing the MTE in schools. The objectives of this symposium are to discus lessons learnt and challenges of MTE in UPE, and determine the factors that influence quality delivery in multilingual communities. This symposium therefore will assist us to take stock of the achievements, best practices, strategies to address the challenges and agree on the way forward. I am happy to note that key stakeholders in education have been invited to attend this symposium and your deliberations on lessons learnt, emerging issues and way forward will provide a good foundation for the Arua Declaration 2013 which is the final product of this symposium. My keynote address will focus on three key areas. First, I will highlight the international perspective of MTE in order for us to appreciate its importance; then briefly discuss the benefits and challenges of MTE; and finally propose the way forward. INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVE OF MTE Every human being is born with a language. In many societies, a when a child is born he/she is given a name. That name is derived from the language the child will learn to speak, read and write. Language therefore is a tool of identity, self-esteem, culture, communication, and structure of thinking (Gove & Cvelich, 2010). Language is at the heart of the teaching and learning process and ensures sustained communication between teachers and students, super-ordinates and subordinates, and promotes self and national development. Globally every state has the right to devise a language policy. The importance of language to steer and promote development in the world was realized as early as 1953 when UNESCO recommended that a childs education is best begun in her or her mother tongue paving way to use African languages as a medium of instruction. UNESCO defines MTE as education which uses as its medium of instruction a persons mother tongue, that is the language which a person has acquired in early years and which normally has become his/her natural instrument of thought and communication (UNESCO, 1968).
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Two policy documents were designed by the African leaders to guide the management of MTE namely: The Language Plan of Action for Africa of 1986 and The Second Decade of Education in Africa 2006- 2015 (AU, 2006). In many countries (e.g. Canada, Sweden, South Africa), the policy of teaching children in early grades in MT was adopted to provide a strong foundation of literacy and to promote intergenerational transmission of knowledge, skills, and values. In Uganda, thematic curriculum was introduced in 2007 to improve children literacy and numeracy, acquisition of life skills (e.g. high order thinking skills and creative skills), learning outcomes, facilitate learning a second language (English) and to promote assessment that diagnostic and remedial. The Government of Uganda National Development Plan 2010/11 2014/15 underscore the importance of local language to improve the quality and relevance of primary education. WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS AND CHALLENGES OF MTE? MTE is instruction in a childs first language usually in pre-school and the three to seven years of primary schooling. Academic literature from different parts of the world shows that MTE has been distinguished as one of the best strategies to achieve improvements in access, equity and quality of primary schooling (Gove & Cvelich, 2010). This is reflected in improvements in reading; learning achievements; understanding the second language; parental involvement; understanding one own culture; high retention and completion rates; and better communication amongst peers and wider community. Research conducted in 22 developing countries and 160 language groups show that children that access instruction in MT have higher chances for retention and completion, while children not taught in MT have high chances of dropping out of school (Smits, et al., 2008). Therefore MTE makes teaching and learning more interesting, lively, and above all facilitate learners acquisition of appropriate competencies. However, efforts to popularise MTE are hampered by inadequate resources, technology and western and eastern linguistic imperialism. The imperialists considered African languages as primitive and evil and hence Africans were baptised European names and Christianity considered most African cultural practices as evil. This led to resistance by some African leaders in order to protect their identity. For example, President Mobutu Seseseko abandoned his Christian name Joseph, and directed all citizens of Zaire (currently DRC) to abandon Euro-Arabic names in favour of African names. Only 10 out of 53 countries in Africa recognise indigenous African language as official languages (Bamgbose, 2011). Mazrui (1980) therefore contends that the major impact of our cultural life has come from Western Europe in domains as varied as international law and food culture, in areas as diverse as dress, the languages that we use, and the schools systems that we employ. Given that background, there are two major challenges facing MTE in Uganda: (a) Practical issues namely inadequate resources (e.g. trained teachers, instructional materials development and provision); language teaching methodology; class size; sectarianism; linguicide; parental participation and support; and management of MTE by local government leaders.

(b) Ideological issues namely predetermined ideas and beliefs concerned with power structure, ethnicity, multilingualism, and economic and social transformation. It should be noted that these are temporary challenges that will be addressed with time, as the saying goes, "The only permanent thing in the world is change". WHAT IS THE WAY FORWARD? Distinguished participants, a lot have been achieved since this project was launched in 2009. Yet, there are also challenges that require both short term and long term solutions and interventions. I would like to appeal to you to reflect on the following questions and provide appropriate answers as we look forward to launching the Arua Declaration 2013. (a) How can teacher training programmes enhance use of MTE to promote quality teaching and learning practices? (b) How can stakeholders guard against the linguistic genocide of mother tongues as a medium of instruction in nursery and lower primary? (c) What are the roles of different stakeholders (local government, MoES, private sector, local leaders, religious leaders, politicians and technocrats) in promoting and sustaining MTE in institutions of learning? (d) What strategies can we put in place to address challenges facing MTE using locally available resources? (e) How shall we ensure that the five language boards continue to play a key role in promoting MTE at the end of the project? It is my hope and prayer that this symposium will provide us with useful insights to contribute to the way forward for MTE and its sustainability in Ugandas education system. I wish to appeal to all of you to maintain and consolidate the linguistic and cultural identity of communities at a micro-linguistic planning level while constructing a pluralistic national identity at the macro-linguistic planning level. Once again, allow me to thank the organisers to bringing us together to discuss the future of the children of Uganda. Thank you very much for your kind attention and I hope this symposium will be a great success.

References AU (2006) Second Decade of Education in Africa 20006-2015, Addis Ababa: The African Union Bamgbose, (2011) African Languages Today: The Challenge of and Prospects for Empowerment under Globalization. In Eyamba G. Bokamba et al (ed) Selected Proceedings of the 40th Annual Conference on African Linguistics, 1-14. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project. www.lingref.com, document #2561 Gove, A. & Cvelich, P. (2010) Early Reading: Igniting Education for All. A report by the Early Grade Learning Community of Practice. Research Triangle Park, NC: Research Triangle Institute. Mazrui, A. (1980) Dependency in the Black World: Five strategies for Discolinisations. In Aguibou, Y. Yansane (ed) Decolonisation and Dependency: Problems of Development in African Societies. Connecticut: Greenwood Press. Smits, J.et al. (2008) Home language and education in the developing world, Paris: UNESCO. http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0017/001787/178702e.pdf UNESCO (1968) The Use of Languages in Education, In Joshua A. F (ed) Readings In The Sociology Of Language. The Hague: Mouton.