We believe all children have the right to a quality education in a language they know and understand.
What we're doing
Mango Tree's Northern Uganda Literacy Program is working in the Lango and Kumam language communities. Our goal is to improve literacy performance among pupils in early primary classrooms (P1-P3) and strengthen the literacy infrastructure in northern Uganda so that reading and writing, especially in the local language, become a meaningful part of daily life.
The NULP consists of two distinct, but interrelated, projects that contribute to learning outcomes for pupils and improved instruction for teachers. The projects are the Literacy Laboratory Project (LLP) and the Strengthening a Literate Society (SLS) Project.
The Literacy Laboratory Project (LLP) focuses on improving pupils' performance in reading and writing in their local language and English in the first three years of primary school. Mango Tree has developed a literacy instructional model, methodology and teaching and learning materials for early primary classrooms in both the mother tongue and English. Following a successful pilot impact evaluation in 2013, Mango Tree is now implementing the project in a larger number of schools and districts in the Lango Sub-region. From 2014 to 2016, we are testing our literacy model and approaches to teacher training and support supervision using a randomized control trial in 128 government primary schools.
The Strengthening a Literate Society (SLS) Project supports the Lango and Kumam Language Boards to revise and standardize their orthographies; print and distribute basic reference materials related to each language (especially to teachers and local education officials); train local writers, editors, illustrators and graphic designers to develop literacy materials in local languages; educate the general population about the importance of local language literacy; build the language boards' internal capacities so that they are able to make a meaningful contribution to local language literacy education in Uganda; and increase communities' knowledge of, and appreciation for, their local languages.
Beginning in 2014 Mango Tree, in partnership with the Bible Society of Uganda, is further supporting the development of early primary literacy and resource materials in the Kumam language. The project will also train education stakeholders, including teachers, head teachers, teacher tutors and district school inspectors, in effective literacy instruction and assessment approaches and promote a culture of local language literacy in the Teso Sub-region.
The Mango Tree literacy model has a number of key innovations that make it significantly different from the other large-scale literacy projects currently underway in Uganda and East Africa.
The motto of the literacy model is "Go slow to go fast". It takes two years to introduce all the Leblango phonemes (letter sounds) through the Mango Tree model, whereas other models introduce all the phonemes in one year. The Mango Tree model takes into account the realities of Ugandan classrooms (high learner and teacher absenteeism, under-trained teachers, lack of pre-primary preparatory skills development) and introduces the content slowly, providing lots of time for repetition and revision. The instructional approach in P1 and P2 is also similar, meaning that teachers trained in the P1 model can also easily teach the P2 model with limited training. This is not the case with the other models, where an entirely new training curriculum is required each year.
“If you don’t have a language, then you don’t belong anywhere because language is an instrument of belonging.”
– Dennis Akaa
Focus on Language Knowledge
The Mango Tree training model recognizes the important role that knowledge of, and fluency in, the local language plays in effective instruction. The first training module is focused on providing teachers with a solid foundation in the Leblango orthography, including grammatical features and letter names and sounds. This approach has proven to be extremely important for standardizing instruction in a language with many dialects. Other programs do not spend much time- if any - on language training, meaning their teachers lack a basic knowledge about the language before they begin teaching children to read and write in it.
Consistency through Instructional Videos
Many literacy projects lose impact due to poor training, as the training process cascades from national to local levels. To solve this problem, Mango Tree uses video training. Mango Tree's videos are tied to the model and ensure consistency in training content and key messages while providing examples of excellent classroom practice using real-life situations. Government teacher trainers, or Coordinating Center Tutors (CCTs), also use the videos on solar-powered, portable DVD players to train teachers on site at their schools, offering targeted support supervision while eliminating dependency on expensive residential training models.
Training through Mentor Teachers
Mango Tree's training model has been developed over 4 years to address the real needs of teachers in the classroom. It focuses on the uptake of practical skills in small groups facilitated by classroom "mentor" teachers, who are experienced teachers that have mastered the Mango Tree model. The use of mentor teachers is unique to Mango Tree and gives teachers the chance to learn from their peers under the guidance of CCTs. This differs greatly from other models where a short trainer of trainers workshop trains CCTs, who are then expected to train teachers after only limited exposure to the methods and with no experience actually teaching them in the classroom.
Parent and Community Engagement
Mango Tree trains parents in local language education issues to help them understand why they should support Uganda's primary literacy policies. They are also trained to interpret their child's literacy report card (which Mango Tree created with teachers and translated into the local language) and use the results to support their child's learning at home, including activities like reading stories together. Parents are taught and encouraged to use a simple Parent Assessment Tool to measure their child's literacy progress. Finally, Mango Tree sponsors a one-hour bi-monthly radio program (supported by SMS messages and surveys to engage listeners in feedback) that broadcasts literacy and local language education topics to parents, teachers and communities in the Lango Sub-region.
Instructional Design Based on Local Context
Using a unique instructional design process, Mango Tree's materials have been developed continuously over the past 4 years in partnership with teachers and CCTs to ensure that what we expect of teachers and learners is clear, realistic and reflects the reality of the average resource-poor, overcrowded, rural Ugandan classroom. Other models develop their materials in short 3 to 4 week writing workshops without the benefit of a sustained field-based relationship with a core group of teachers and trainers. As a result, adaptations based on field-testing are often overlooked or are difficult to integrate effectively. Mango Tree's primers are also small and inexpensive to reproduce, enabling districts, schools and parents themselves to afford getting more books into the hands of children. They are also easy to store, distribute and use in Ugandan classrooms.