Connect with us

Columns And Opinions

Counties key to mother tongue education



More by this Author

The International Mother Language Day was observed on February 21 without much activity in Kenya. Mooted in Bangladesh and proclaimed by the General Conference of Unesco in 1999, the day gained official recognition by the United Nations in 2008. It aims to hail the world’s linguistic diversity.

This year’s theme, “Languages without borders”, was to front the fact that local and cross-border languages can promote peaceful dialogue to preserve indigenous heritage. But that will only be possible if enough sustainable efforts are put in place to ensure these languages are not only preserved but also meaningfully passed on to newer generations.

Due to globalisation, many languages are under threat of extinction while some are already ‘dead’. According to the United Nations, the death of a language comes with the death of a rich cultural heritage, opportunities, traditions, memory, unique modes of thinking and expression, all which are valuable resources for ensuring a better future.

In Kenya, six languages are extinct and seven endangered.

One way of sustaining these languages is to have them in the education system. Article 5 of the Asmara Declaration of 2000 states that all African children have the inalienable right to attend school and learn in their mother tongue. But research shows 40 per cent of learners globally learn in a language they neither speak nor understand.


Although the Ministry of Education has shown commitment to developing mother tongue for educational development, it has often failed on effective implementation strategies and supervision measures to ensure compliance.

The Basic Education Curriculum Framework developed by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) recognises the country as a multi-ethnic community where people speak various languages and dialects. Through the languages, valuable cultural values and norms are communicated across generations.

According to this framework, indigenous language activities in speaking, pre-reading and pre-writing should be carried in the language of the catchment area.

The 18 languages identified by KICD are Abasuba, Turkana, Somali, Pokomo, Maragoli, Kitubheta, Kidigo, Kiitharaka, Giriama, Bukusu, Borana, Kamba, Dholuo, Gikuyu, Kalenjin, Ekegusii, Chiduruma and Maa. By 2018, KICD had approved the development of mother tongue learning materials for Gikuyu, Kikamba, Dholuo and Ekegusii.

Under the Competency-Based Curriculum, mother tongue is to be taught at pre-primary level — nursery to Grade 3. Since basic education is devolved, mother tongue education is anchored at the county level.

The county governments are tasked to recruit qualified and competent Early Childhood Development Education (ECDE) teachers, especially from within the learner catchment area and also supervise CBC implementation. They should also provide instructional materials to ECDE centres and ensure a safe and conducive study environment.

Since different counties have different indigenous languages and dialects, it’s necessary for the ministry, in conjunction with teacher training colleges (TTCs), to offer training in mother tongue methodologies. These should be teachers well-versed in the local language.

TTCs need to be in the frontline in training competent teachers to deliver the expectations envisaged in the framework. They should also develop a harmonised curriculum to ensure uniformity.

Source link