the Imagination to Rise

the Imagination to Rise

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…

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In Their Own Words...

In Their Own Words...

While we at SIL LEAD are grateful for many opportunities to serve communities around the world, we hold a special place in our hearts for the organizations we are able to support through our Community Based Language Development (CBLD) program. These are often smaller organizations that might otherwise be overlooked in large scale aid and development initiatives.  By supporting the efforts of local citizens who are taking initiative to improve their own communities, SIL LEAD has a fantastic opportunity to make a real difference in a very focused way. One of the first organizations we have partnered with through the CBLD program is Literacy & Development through Partnership (LDP)…

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A Bridge to Other Worlds

A Bridge to Other Worlds

Imagine for a moment that you’re a small child with a love of books. We may be biased, but we think that makes you pretty much “a small child,” period, because we believe that all children love books! Anyway, imagine we bring you, a small child, into a vast library filled with hundreds or even thousands of brightly colored books.

The colors! The pictures! The beautiful words!

You’ve heard about books. Someone has told you of the worlds these books will open up to you, so you head for the closest shelf and pluck off a promising title with an intriguing cover image of a baby cradling a giant grasshopper. What a mysterious image! …

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Redirecting the Spotlight

Redirecting the Spotlight

Dr. Susan Malone does not like to talk about herself. Not, she says, when “there are too many much more important things to talk about, such as the children in non-dominant language communities who are discriminated against in formal education systems.”

The strength of an organization is always its people, and SIL LEAD’s strength comes from the fact that its staff and associates always seem to insist on shining the spotlight away from themselves and onto the people with whom they work. In a world grown obsessed with the ephemera of fame, it is good to be reminded that everyone has a voice worth hearing, and that all too often some voices are silenced—either intentionally, or by failing to listen…

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Bloom in Kenya - A Teacher’s Story

Bloom in Kenya - A Teacher’s Story

Wawerũ Mwangi is a high school teacher who lives and works in Naiyasha, Kenya. He’s a linguist by training and has written numerous high school textbooks, as well as vernacular texts for primary schools and a teacher’s guide in the Kikuyu language, which have been approved by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD).

All this would be quite enough to keep anyone busy, but Mr. Mwangi also loves to write stories…

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First Four Scholarship Recipients Successful: Peru Update

SIL LEAD is pleased to announce that four out of the first six Indigenous Peruvian Teacher Scholarship recipients have successfully completed their thesis requirements. The other two recipients are continuing to make progress on their research and writing. One of them will likely defend his thesis in August. Thank you for supporting this important effort to help keep minority language teachers in their classrooms.

SIL LEAD is also pleased to announce that its local partner, AIDI (Asociación Indígena de Desarollo Integral), has awarded six new scholarships. The awardees—three women and three men—represent the Awajún, Kakataibo, Shipibo-Konibo, and Yora language communities.

SIL LEAD’s Indigenous Peruvian Teacher Scholarship program was established to provide assistance to current and aspiring teachers who have completed four years of undergraduate coursework and who are seeking to complete their undergraduate thesis requirements so that they can receive their títulos (teaching credentials). Until recently, teachers in Peru were permitted to teach without títulos. Recent policy changes, however, now require that teachers obtain títulos in order to remain in the classroom.

The additional time to complete their theses and the significantly higher costs associated with this process make it especially challenging for indigenous teachers to complete these requirements. As a result, many indigenous teachers are losing their teaching positions.

Because SIL LEAD believes that children learn best when they are taught by teachers who speak their community’s language and value their culture, we initiated this pilot program to provide support to up to twenty-four teachers.

Through the generosity of a foundation and twenty-one individual donors, SIL LEAD has raised just over $40,000 (about 70 percent of the total goal). Based on the twelve scholarships already awarded, SIL LEAD is currently able to provide funds for six more scholarships. Read more about the program on the Peru page.

Photo Credit: AIDI

If you can’t understand, how can you learn?

For decades, the importance of mother tongue education has been recognized.  But establishing a language in education policy for a multi-ethnic country can be very challengingDr. Eirini Gouleta, who worked last year with SIL LEAD as a consultant, notes that Policies seem to be altering back and forth from mother tongue to post-colonial language depending on the political landscape and the popular trends among voters in each situation.”

On International Mother Language Day (#IMLD), UNESCO released a policy paper entitled If you don’t understand, how can you learn?  One of the key messages of this paper was that, “Education policies should recognize the importance of mother tongue learning.” In addition to acknowledging that according to “one estimate, as much as 40% of the global population does not have access to education in a language they speak or understand,” the paper also highlights evidence which demonstrates that, “At least six years of mother tongue instruction is needed to reduce learning gaps for minority language speakers.” 

This policy paper provides an excellent and brief rationale for the need for mother-tongue based multilingual education. The bottom line is that students who are not taught in their mother tongue are severely hampered in their educational attainment. When coupled with the poverty and marginalization experienced by many minority language communities, the lack of mother tongue education not only perpetuates but increases the disadvantages faced by indigenous language communities around the world. 

At SIL LEAD, we are passionate about efforts to help narrow the educational divide faced by minority language communities. We concur with Dr. Gouleta, who believes that it “is critical that solid policies in support of mother tongue [education], the issue of instruction and assessment, and the implications for accurately measuring student learning in the mother tongue be specifically addressed and safeguarded by all actors and stakeholders in education development.”  

We at SIL LEAD are committed to providing highly trained and experienced multilingual education specialists who can help guide and develop multilingual education programs and resources for minority language communities.  We are thankful that we can draw on talented individuals like Dr. Gouleta.


Dr. Eirini Gouleta is Associate Professor of Multicultural Special Education at the University of Macedonia, Greece. 

A study coauthored by Barbara Trudell, who has also served as a consultant with SIL LEAD, is also cited in the policy paper.