n Language Matters : Studies in the Languages of Southern Africa - Mother-tongue education in schools in Kenya : some hidden beneficiaries

Volume 35, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0256-5986



In 1998, the adult literacy outlook in the semi-desert Tharaka district of Kenya was bleak. That was before mother-tongue education arrived on the scene, specifically targeting Tharaka-speaking children. A Tharaka mother-tongue programme inherently possessed three strategic assets: highly motivated educators, a captive audience of over 20 000 learners (in early primary schools alone) and 152 schools. The potential for bringing literacy to the schoolchildren became feasible. A noteworthy result of this programme is the impact it has had upon literacy for the Tharaka adult community. The author briefly outlines the plan she developed together with her Kenyan colleagues for teacher training and supervision, literacy materials, and implementation of the programme, including the chronological process of implementation from pilot programme through expansion to 152 schools in four grade levels. While teacher training is a means toward literacy development for children, it has additional rewards, because adult literacy is also a beneficiary of such a programme. Around 700 adults (highly regarded and influential in the community) are now learning not only how to read their mother tongue, but to write it as well.

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