Language in education policy and literacy acquisition in multilingual Uganda: a case study of the urban district of Kampala – Prosperous Nankindu

Prosperous Nankindu

University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa

This study is concerned with Language in Education Policy (LiEP) and literacy acquisition in multilingual Uganda with the urban district of Kampala as the case study. Specifically, the study investigates the implementation of a monoglot LiEP for early literacy acquisition in a multilingual situation. The thesis critically analyses three LiEP instruments for Uganda, namely; (i) The 1992 Government White Paper on Education, (ii) The 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda and (iii) The Uganda Education Sector Strategic Plan 2004-2015 (ESSP). After that analysis the study presents views and perceptions of LiEP stakeholders in Uganda: Policy makers, Curriculum developers, Literacy researchers, NGO Officials, Head teachers, Literacy teachers and Parents/Guardians. The study is mainly prompted by the LiEP which recommends English as the Medium of Instruction (MoI) but not the common language to be used throughout the Primary School cycle. The thesis is trying to shed light on the following aspects; principles of a LiEP in a multilingual setting, relevant LiEP models for multilingual situations, multilingualism as a resource for literacy acquisition, appropriateness of a bilingual LiEP in Kampala with a local language, classroom and home literacy practices and lastly, literacy acquisition. The research question is to find out the extent to which the current LiEP in Uganda provides for literacy acquisition in multilingual settings.

This study is an empirical case study, in which a mixed methods approach was used. This involved both qualitative and quantitative strategies of collecting and analyzing data. Such multi-methodical approaches are seen in studies in New Literacy Studies (Saxena 1994; Prinsloo and Breier, 1996; Martin-Jones and Bhatt 1998; Martin-Jones and Jones, 2001; Baynham, 2000; Street 2000; Baynham, 2001; Banda, 2003). In this study, various data were analysed separately; qualitative data were analyzed using two theories, Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) and the New Literacy Studies (NLS), while quantitative data were processed using SPSS software and analysed using descriptive statistical methods. NLS was used to evaluate the literacy acquisition methods in primary schools. NLS was supported by CDA to be able to analyse further the biases arising from the LiEP institutions, and the respondents’ views, opinions, perceptions, feelings and attitudes. CDA helped the researcher to go beyond speculation and demonstrate how texts work, particularly when analysing the LiEP instruments. The researcher found out that, Kampala district is not exceptional from the rural areas in Uganda. As the policy in rural areas is to use local languages, some teachers in Kampala urban district have decided to improvise translanguaging strategies through the use of the translation strategy (Canagarajah, 2006, 155) and the use of stories, local names of places, games, rhymes and songs. Teachers do this to be able to fit into the multilingual situations in their Primary One literacy classes. It is probably one of the reasons why 27.4% of the learners were able to get advanced results in the literacy test and 23.5% adequate. However, despite the fact that LiEP for Kampala is responsible for that kind of performance, there are other determinants of literacy acquisition in the district. Such determinants include: education level of parents/guardians, their occupations and relationship with the child, buying of home reading materials, language of those reading materials, age and gender of learners, nursery attendance, school location and school ownership. These determinants were statistically significant when learners’ test achievements were cross tabulated.

The study concludes that, LiEPs in Uganda have developed since 1877 to date when we have the ESSP. That implies that the views and perceptions of stakeholders also keep on changing. It cannot be predicted whether the issues of language in education in Uganda can be finally sorted out because even the current plan is still subjected to reviews and the policies already on paper deflect from practice. It is for such reasons that Blommaert (1999b, 37) says that the terms ‘end’ or ‘closure’ are not particularly suitable in the context of ideological debates and language politics. It is likely that after 2015, with regard to the LiEP for Uganda and Kampala district in particular, more discussions will be held, policies reviewed or others suggested. The study then suggests: (1) Change of stakeholders’ beliefs/attitudes towards local languages, (2) Status language planning which would enable a paradigm shift that would review LiEP for Kampala from a monoglot to a bi/multilingual education policy, (3) Corpus language planning which requires development of orthography as well as elaboration of vocabulary in order to respond to the widened functions of the local languages, (4) Schools to develop their own language plans in trying to implement the Thematic Curriculum, (5) The promotion of bi/multilingualism in pre-service and in-service courses for primary school teachers in order to facilitate bi/multilingual learning and (6) materials development and publication in local languages with a central focus on the promotion of bi/ multilingual education.

Date of graduation: 17th September 2014.


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