Nuer Literacy Initiative

Project Overview

Project

Nuer Literacy Initiative

Project members:

Dr Oliver Bond
Dr Matthew Baerman
Dr Tatiana Reid (Edinburgh)

Project partners

South African Institute for Distance Education (Saide)

Period of award

November 2021 - October 2022

Funder:

AHRC

The Nuer Literacy Initiative targets inequalities in access to mother-tongue education in the Nuer language, spoken in South Sudan and Ethiopia, and by a broader global diaspora community. South Sudan has some of the lowest literacy rates of any country in the world, with only around 35% of the adult population estimated to have basic literacy skills. Ongoing civil conflict has had a devastating impact on its people and social infrastructure, and led to the displacement of more than 4 million people, with some 2 million fleeing to neighbouring countries in East Africa. As a consequence, an international approach to language development is required.

The project supports international cooperation between linguists in the UK, educational facilitators at the South African Institute for Distance Education (SAIDE), Nuer language activists in East Africa, and a rapidly growing online community of Nuer speakers, of over 2500 members. The project facilitates cultural expression and participation in an inclusive and accessible creative economy. Using purpose-built technological solutions, the project tests a new model for supporting under-resourced languages by engaging a digital network of Nuer stakeholders in the coproduction of creative, culturally appropriate resources to support sustainable, linguistically informed practice for language and literacy development.

The major outcome will be 58 new digital books, and 15,000 physical books, which will have a global reach, benefiting Nuer speakers, Nuer heritage learners and Nuer second-language learners in South Sudan and Ethiopia, East Africa, and the global diaspora. These will be produced by Nuer authors, translators and illustrators within the context of three remote workshops coordinated by the South African Institute for Distance Education, in conjunction with Nuer language activists in East Africa. The online Nuer community will actively participate in the elaboration and refinement of orthographic practice. The outputs will have a transformative effect in providing teachers and parents with the materials they need to engender a love of reading Nuer in children. As a result of the project we envisage that new story books will be created and shared by Nuer group members under their own steam, and that the process will inspire them to produce longer works to share with the community. These works will also aid linguistic activists in developing tools and resources for Nuer teachers.

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