Namibia: Mother Tongue Project Distributes Thousands of Books

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Tue Mar 6 14:25:07 UTC 2007

Mother Tongue Project Distributes Thousands of Books

New Era (Windhoek)  NEWS March 5, 2007 Posted to the web March 5, 2007

By Wezi Tjaronda Windhoek

Some 750 000 teaching and learning textbooks from Grades 1 to 3 have been
distributed to schools since the start of the Basic Education Programme
(BEP) Upgrading African Languages Project (Afrila) in October 2000, which
has improved the textbook learner ratio. The project aimed at improving
literacy and numeracy in learners in the mother tongue and also to promote
the acquisition of English as a second language before English becomes the
medium of instruction from Grade 4 onwards.

It is believed that the language spoken at home by a learner is an
important prerequisite to success in learning. The project has developed
new teaching and learning materials in six target languages, namely,
Kukwangali, Rumanyo, Thimbukushu, Otjiherero, Silozi and Khoekhoegowab,
but also in Oshindonga and Oshikwanyama for grades 1 to 3. Last month, the
Afrila project launched literacy, mathematics and environmental studies
textbooks for grades 1 to 3 in six target languages.  The textbooks are
based on the revised lower primary curriculum and the new subject
syllabus, to contribute to the strengthening of mother tongue education in
the foundation phase.

Launching the books, Undersecretary for Formal Education in the Ministry
of Education, Alfred Ilukena, said language was the most important tool
for thinking, a means of communication and one of the most important
aspects of identity. "A high level of communication in one's language is a
prerequisite in a knowledge-based society," he said. Ilukena said learners
also learnt best through their mother tongues in the formative years of
schooling and would master English if they have mastered their mother
tongue first. "The purpose of the lower primary phase is to lay a
foundation for learning throughout the formal education system. If the
foundation which is laid in these four years is good, the learners will be
well prepared to continue learning," he said, adding that this would also
enable children to develop self-confidence and self-worth through personal
and social development during this phase.

The Afrila project coordinator, Andreas Schott, who also bade farewell
since the project has come to an end, said the project supported the
ministry and NIED to implement the Language Policy for Schools to improve
the quality of mother tongue education in the lower primary phase. The
project has made available over 350 publications. "This in itself should
alone increase the effectiveness of teaching in the lower primary
classroom combined with a learner-centred pedagogy in which the textbooks
are the basis as the guiding pedagogical paradigm," said Schott.

However, he recommended that an impact study be conducted to determine how
the materials have improved the performance of the learners and also that
the ministry should incorporate necessary activities for mother tongue
education in the lower primary phase into ETSIP planning through a second
language policy and a feasible textbook policy. The project was financed
by the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ).

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