the Imagination to Rise

“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” – Albert Einstein

The challenge of any creative journey is that there is always a sense in which you are starting without a map. In the country of Uganda, the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) had a policy and commitment to mother tongue instruction. The Uganda MoES understood that a child who can’t understand the language of instruction cannot learn, and that an educated populace is the foundation of a country’s development.

Like any thoughtful organization attempting to create something new, the Uganda MoES sought partners who had previously walked a similar path. They found those partners in the USAID-funded Uganda School Health and Reading Program (SHRP), working with RTI International.

SIL LEAD is grateful to have been able to contribute to this program from 2012 to 2016. 

Over the course of our involvement, SIL LEAD consultants led the development of the instructional materials in 12 of the country’s languages for grades 1-4, provided technical support for training of trainers and teacher training workshops, as well as supporting the revisionof orthographies for several languages. Our focus was to improve the quality of education in Uganda, emphasizing early grade reading.

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You can learn more about our involvement on our website, but right now we are thrilled to highlight some of the ultimate results of SHRP, as shared in a blog post from RTI International. In it, RTI International Senior Director of Teaching and Learning Dr. Jennae Bulat states that:

“Building from the ground up, SHRP, which RTI implements, supported the Uganda MoES to standardize the orthographies of 12 local languages and then developed teaching and learning materials in all 12 of these languages. The program also undertook an ambitious teacher training initiative that included developing “champion teachers” in all 12 languages who help train other teachers to master their instructional methods.

While it took a large investment in time and resources to build a foundation for mother language learning from the ground up, the return on investment is strong. An end-of-program EGRA [Early Grade Reading Assessment] showed that across all 12 languages, learners in program schools are more likely to read 40 or more correct words per minute than learners in control schools. At least 31 percent of learners could read at least 40 correct words per minute in 7 of the 12 languages. Reading comprehension also improved across all 12 languages.”

The foundation that SIL LEAD helped to lay has had an enormous impact on the future of Uganda. A follow up program has allowed MoES to expand their efforts, to the point where more than eighty percent of lower primary learners in government schools have been reached.

Dr. Bulat goes on to add that “building a foundation for mother language instruction is a huge milestone in a country’s journey to self-reliance. The Uganda MoES deserves enormous credit for committing to this approach even though they knew the path forward would be difficult and long. With orthographies, curricula, teaching and learning materials, and trained teachers now in place across 12 languages, Uganda is well positioned to achieve improved learning and reading outcomes for lower primary students now and in the years to come.”

We agree completely!

The people of Uganda have faced challenges inconceivable to those of us from more privileged historical backgrounds. They have risen to those challenges, and with great imagination have envisioned a future where their children can be educated in the language they speak best. They have sought out experienced partners. They have worked with those partners to apply their efforts as effectively as possible. In so doing, they have equipped the next generation with the tools to build a brighter future.

The measure of a culture is not in what it has (although Uganda is a country rich in human and natural resources). Rather, it is in the imagination it can muster to envision what life could one day be.

In this, Uganda is an example to us all.