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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Language education policy and multilingual literacies in Ugandan primary schools Tembe, Juliet Hirome


This thesis reports on a study on multilingual language policies conducted in two primary schools in two communities in eastern Uganda, one rural and one urban, from 2005-2006. The study focused on stakeholders' responses to the new Uganda language education policy, which promotes the teaching of local languages in the first four years of schooling. The policy states that the medium of instruction is the relevant local language for Primary 1-4 in rural schools, and thereafter it is English. In the urban schools, English is the medium of instruction in all the classes and a local language is to be taught as a subject. The study was premised within the framework of literacy as a social practice. Accordingly, the context in which multilingual literacy develops is important to the implementation of Uganda's new language education policy. The key stakeholders identified in the implementation process included: the ministry representatives at the district level, the school administration, the teachers, and the community. The study used questionnaires, individual interviews, classroom observations, focus group discussions, and document analysis to collect data from the two communities, each of which was linked to a local primary school. Although the findings show that in both communities the participants were generally aware of the new local language policy, they were ambivalent about its implementation in their schools. While they recognized the importance of local languages in promoting identity and cultural maintenance, a higher priority was their children's upward mobility, and the desire to be part of wider and more international communities. Further, while area languages like Luganda and regional languages like Kiswahili were perceived to have some benefits as languages of wider communication, it was English that received unequivocal support from both communities. The study concludes that parents and communities need to be better informed about the pedagogical advantages of instruction in the local language, and that communities need convincing evidence that the promotion of local languages will not compromise desires for global citizenship. Therefore, drawing in particular on the work of Stein in South Africa, I argue that we need to consider "re-sourcing resources" to create space in which teachers and other stakeholders can enhance children's multilingual literacy development.

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