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SIL International Media Release

Language, nationhood and education policies in East Africa addressed

(June 2008) The East Africa Working Group on Multilingual Education discussed policies relating to language, nationhood and education at their 11 June meeting in Nairobi, Kenya. Meeting for the second time this year, the group of 18 scholars and specialists represented universities, nongovernmental organizations and government education offices.

An important outcome of the meeting was a request by UNESCO-Nairobi that the working group develop a discussion paper on language and education issues in Kenya, for use with policy makers and community leaders alike. This commissioned paper will be available for the use of UNESCO-Nairobi and others late in 2008.

One topic of particular interest was presented by Dr. Angelina Kioko: "Language, ethnicity, nationhood and multilingual education (MLE)." The role of language policy and the use of African languages in the media were linked to current perceptions of ethnicity and nationhood in Kenya. The group expressed its conviction that both vernacular media and MLE, if used wisely, can significantly enhance communication and learning among rural peoples.

The group recognized a need to broaden the scope of the working group to include representation and issues from elsewhere in East Africa.


The working group is led by a steering committee consisting of Dr. Margaret Muthwii, UBS Africa; Dr. Barbara Trudell, SIL Africa; Mr. Seth Ong'uti, Academy for Educational Development; and Dr. Kioko, of the US International University in Nairobi. SIL Africa Area funded the MLE working group meeting.

Successful MLE enables learners to build a culturally and linguistically appropriate educational foundation first in their home language. Then learning can successfully extend to one or more additional languages. MLE provides the opportunities for lifelong learning in national and international languages as well as the local language. SIL International’s participation in MLE involves serving as an advocate for and with local communities, linking them to supportive resources and helping each build capacity to develop appropriate programs.

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