OEG Live: Local Language OER for African Elementary Classrooms

Alongside live streamed sessions directly from the OEGlobal 2023 conference, we are bringing the OEG Live studio to Edmonton for (wifi allowing) live connections with conference attendees. As a bonus, we are excited to bring you a show with a project I’ve wanted to share, especially as the presenters are unable to travel to the conference-- it seemed like a great pre-conference activity, to generate more of the braiding we are trying to do here in OEG Connect.

In this show we are bringing you an project that is providing required literacy learning in the mother tongue for students in parts of Africa where local language literacy is required but teachers are not supported- watch a small example of this project in action:

In the studio we are inviting Dan McGuire @danmcguire from SABIER who I am counting on to reply with more details on this project (but see below) plus colleagues Kathryn Kure and Nomvuyo Mgoqi (from South Africa) and Peter Amoabil (Ghana) to learn first hand the impact of this powerful use of OER.

:alarm_clock: When (in your local time): 2023-10-05T15:30:00Z2023-10-05T10:30:00Z

:tv: Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_S5_HSzXk8 Watch the recording:

More About the Project

(from an accepted OEGlobal 2023 proposal that due to travel limitations cannot be part of the program)

Our presentation will provide a description and the initial results of a project conducted between March and December of 2023. This project is funded by a grant from the Creative Commons Open Education Platform with additional support from STEAM NPC of Durban, South Africa; SABIER of Minneapolis USA; and Siemens-Stiftung of Munich, Germany.

The project consists of three major components. They are:

  1. Creating, curating, sourcing OER content that meets the needs of elementary students aligned to both Ghanaian and South African standards. A special emphasis will be on incorporating materials edited and adapted for and translated into the local languages in addition to the use of English language materials. The courses will be openly licensed and shared via MoodleNet.

  2. Implementing the OER content on open source MoodleBox software on a portable server that does not require internet access.

  3. Creating professional development courses for teachers to support their implementation of the OER curriculum. These Prof Dev courses will be conducted on an open source Moodle system; the courses will be openly licensed and shared via MoodleNet.

Our goal is that by October 1, 2023, teachers at two schools in rural Ghana and one in a township in the Western Cape, SA, will be participating in the ongoing professional development. Nomvuyo Mgoqi, who was an Education Specialist at the University of Cape Town, will lead teacher for professional development in the Western Cape with support from Kathryn Kure of the STEAM Foundation NPC. Peter Amoabil will be the lead teacher for both schools in Ghana with support from Dan McGuire of SABIER.

This project supports the attainment of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and UNESCO’s Education for Sustainable Development (ESDs); it fosters inclusive participation; and it’s an Innovative application of Open Educational Resources and curriculum design.

Ghana and South Africa face similar problems in providing education at all levels but especially at the elementary level. A particular problem in both countries is the availability of appropriate reading material. Both countries have national requirements that instruction is to be provided in the mother tongue of the children for at least the first three years and then gradually transition to the dominant language, usually English. Ghana and South Africa have eleven official local languages each for a total of twenty different languages.

The Catch 22 is that neither country is able to provide materials in the local languages. Teachers are left to make it up on their own with chalk and chalkboards. Our project provides a solution. Editable digital books are provided via a portable server that does not require internet access. Students access the server via inexpensive WIFI only devices. Teachers are trained in the process of translating and creating appropriate assessments in both English and the local languages - Dagbani in Ghana and isiXhosa in South Africa. This project is replicable nationally in both countries and for all of the various local languages which will benefit over 9 million elementary students.

We hope you can be there to learn more about this globally focused open education effort.

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Thank you, Alan, for setting this up. Speaking of braiding, did you know the earliest depictions of Ghana braids appear in sculptures carved around 500 BC, illustrating the attention Africans paid to their hair. For centuries, they’ve been an integral part of many different Ghanaian ethnic, social, and cultural traditions.

Braids have a long tradition in South Africa, too. Check out the braids on a couple of the artists performing these songs in the Xhosa language, which is the language that we’re translating some first year books into from English.

And while we’re on music here’s a selection from one of the proud sons of the Kingdom of Dagbon., Rocky Dawuni. Dagbani is the mother tongue of the students in Peter’s class in Ghana. This video was shot about 100 Km NE of Peter’s school in Tamale. In the video you might notices more braids and some dancing in a circle with drums which is not unlike a Pow-Pow in Alberta.

The professional development we’re doing with the teachers in Ghana and South Africa is not just in literacy. We’re also using math curriculum from Illustrative Mathematics and aligning it to the Ghanaian and South African standards for the respective grades of the students. And, we’re generating reports of student progress mapped to those standards. We’re just beginning, taking first steps, innovating teaching and learning with OER and an open source LMS.

And, the Lion Runs book actually aligns with South African standards in STEM for R and RR level students. Again, reports will be available.

Every time I meet with the team in Africa, I learn something new. Here’s a recent set of facts confirmed by Wikipedia:

“At least thirty-five languages indigenous to South Africa are spoken in the Republic, twelve of which are official languages of South Africa: Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swati, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, Zulu, Afrikaans, and English, which is the primary language used in parliamentary and state discourse, though all official languages are equal in legal status. In addition, South African Sign Language was recognised as the twelfth official language of South Africa by the National Assembly on 3 May 2023

The most common language spoken as a first language by South Africans is Zulu (23 percent), followed by Xhosa (16 percent), and Afrikaans (14 percent). English is the fourth most common first language in the country (9.6%).”

The implications of those facts for early literacy instructors, well, any literacy instructors, really, is mind boggling, especially when you consider that it is now well established that teaching kids to read in their mother tongue first is far more effective than trying to teach them the dominant language first.

One of the other recent facts I’ve come upon is that depending on who you talk to there are either 5 times or 12 times as many K-12 students in the world as there are Higher Ed students. Which means policies, frameworks, initiatives, and ideas that are focused on Higher Ed students is a focus on only 20%, at most, of the students in the world. That’s not very inclusive, or equitable, or just, and it’s probably not sustainable. We’re making a start at tweaking that lens a bit. We invite your participation.

Thanks Dan (the OERtist!) and Kathryn for joining us to share this important OER effort, and also showing us a real MoodleBox.

If you missed our conversation, the archive is already available. We hope other global educators and also attendees of the OE Global conference, teaching elementary education in first languages take a look at this project.

A few links from the conversation:

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