Dr Oliver Bond Dr Matthew Baerman Dr Tatiana Reid (Edinburgh)
South African Institute for Distance Education (Saide)
Period of award
November 2021 - October 2022
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.
Building on our existing success establishing Nuer's first interactive online dictionary nuerlexicon.com and the Nuer Lexicon Facebook Group, the NLI 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 4000 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.
As part of the project, the Nuer Literacy Initiative team will be holding two online workshops to support Nuer speakers to translate illustrated children's storybooks available for free on Saide's AfricanStoryBook website and African Storybook Reader App. We will also be running a creation workshop, to help new Nuer authors develop their own original children's stories. Find out about our plans by watching the project video:
The major outcome of the project will be 58 new digital books, and 15,000 physical books. The books 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. The books will be produced by Nuer authors, translators and illustrators within the context of three remote workshops, with the online Nuer community actively participating 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.
If you are a Nuer community member, and would like to get involved, please join our Facebook group or email Tatiana Reid (firstname.lastname@example.org) to find out how you can participate.