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Sep 22, 2016

Years of advocacy bear great fruit for literacy!

Written by Kenny G

image: Thousands of Ugandans browsed many mother tongue resources during the two-day celebration.Thousands of Ugandans browsed many mother tongue
resources during the two-day celebration.

Our team's long-held passion for "mother tongues" has found a national stage.

For two days at the Uganda National Theatre in Kampala, we participated in official events and activities for observance of International Mother Language Day. This opportunity came in the form of a direct invitation we received from the Language Commission of the Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social Development.

Our Literacy team engaged with public celebration (and debate) over Uganda's more than three dozen mother languages. We gave personal testimony, and shared stories from our work. We spoke on national radio about the importance of using mother tongue in education. We displayed a variety of the materials which we've created and published for numerous local language communities.

"God, through his grace, has guided us to moments like this," said Lydia, the team's External Relations Officer. "Many people on this team," she continued, "have given much effort to promote mother tongue literacy in our communities for many years. Over time, we've connected with more and more individuals who support us, and organisations which choose to partner with us. Our relationship with the Language Commission has been growing for some time. Now, it has yielded very good fruit."

The Commission also asked us to help plan this big event. We met as part of a larger team which included schools, publishers, media, community and government leaders, writers, researchers — even the Army. "In teaching and learning," Lydia proposed at one meeting, "mother tongue is not a problem… it's a vital resource!" This idea was eventually approved as the topic for a keynote address.

For nearly two decades the nation of Uganda has, together with much of the world, recognised and celebrated International Mother Language Day. This year, events surrounding the election cycle threatened to disrupt plans for the event. Rather than cancel or scale down, organisers chose instead to simply postpone a few weeks.

Response to our contribution was very encouraging. We were kept busy chatting with individuals who asked questions about their own languages. People from several organisations asked us, "Please, come to meet with us. You can inform and encourage us on how to work through issues we face concerning local languages."

In one typical encounter, a display of our Nyole language materials got the attention of a government official who then met with us to discuss the impact of using that language for teaching in local schools. As a result, a primary teacher training school in the Nyole community invited us to work with them to build a thematic literacy programme.

"It was great to interact with people at the national level," said Lydia, "with the very people who make the policies which impact our work. Also, I was so encouraged that we could actively participate in a larger group of teams working to advocate for literacy in Uganda's mother languages. We learned a lot from them, too."

As a team, we are greatly encouraged after this major event promoting Uganda's mother tongues. The many presentations got people talking and thinking about realistic ideas and plans to implement. There is still much work to do — and since Scripture translation depends so greatly on literacy in the target language, we believe that God will bring us many more opportunities to advocate for these languages.


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