Uganda: pupils to use mother tongue

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Tue Aug 16 13:38:08 UTC 2005

Pupils to Use Mother Tongue

The Monitor (Kampala)
August 15, 2005
Posted to the web August 15, 2005

By Jane Nafula

The Ministry of Education and Sports has instructed district language
boards in the country to identify local languages that can be used as a
medium of instruction at lower primary.  Government is planning to
implement a policy on the use of local languages at lower primary (P1-P3)
as a medium of instruction.

"We have written to the district language boards to inform districts and
local authorities to propose languages that are representative of
residents before the policy is implemented," said the acting Director of
education at the Ministry of Education and Sports Mr Sam Onek.

The argument of using local languages other than English as a medium of
instruction at lower primary is that it is easy for a child to learn new
skills when it is communicated to in a local language and that this policy
would enhance on children's writing reading and comprehension skills. Onek
said children learn best when they are taught in a language used at their
formative stage.

He said this policy is not new but it dates back in the 60's. "The policy
has been with us since independence and it dates back to studies conducted
by psychologists in the 1960s," he said. Onek said that a broad sense, the
policy says that pupils at lower primary should be instructed in their
local languages except those with proactive problems in urban areas.

"Most of the children in urban areas come from different ethnic groups and
more less use English even at home so the policy proposes that English
remains as a medium of instruction in urban schools," he said.

He added, "We want this to be implemented mostly in rural areas but
English would continue to be used in urban schools as a medium of
instruction in the due course as we look at the implication of Swahili

He said the language chosen by the district language boards must be
understood by pupils, have autography, literature/materials, teachers who
can speak and teach it and able to be written in alphabetic among other

English would be taught as a subject and when they reach Primary four,
they would shift to English as a medium of instruction while local
languages would be taught as subjects.

He said some of the district language boards have started responding to
the demand.

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