In a nutshell, the work aims to produce ‘home-grown’ stories for children between the ages of 4 and 9 years old (or even older as in our case) who are learning to read.
In Lesotho, as in many African countries, the policy is to teach children to learn to read in Sesotho as well as in English which is the official medium of instruction, the language of learning and teaching.
Whatever one may think of this policy, the fact remains that children learning to read in a language they don’t understand are at a distinct initial disadvantage. The whole point of reading is to get to the meaning of the text.
This is not possible if one does not understand the language of that text firstly as a spoken language.
The children of Malealea are exposed to very little spoken English. Most parents do not speak English, and even if they have a smattering of English, they certainly do not speak it at home. There is no English TV or radio or even newspapers or magazines. Their teachers speak English at school, but this is often far from adequate, particularly as the language of instruction.
So, our work at Paleng, through this project, is to create stories in SeSotho, the local language, and make them available to people who can use them, these being the children themselves, their teachers and parents, and other people looking for stories in SeSotho.
We are a pilot-site for this project, which means that we are helping with the testing of this project on all levels, from technical (it is a web-site based project) to social to contextual to linguistic levels. The thinking is that if it can work in our rural and remote southern African context, then it can work anywhere in Africa. This is an Africa-wide project. We share pilot-site status with centres in Uganda, Kenya and South Africa, and the web-site aims ultimately to offer stories in all African languages.
It is a very exciting and important project, and we are proud to be part of it.
We develop stories in conjunction with a wide range of people: children, teachers, interested adults, anyone really, who has a story to tell.
As part of our work for ASP, we held one story-crafting workshop, which went very well. We got some very interesting stories from this workshop, firmly based in the local context.
We submit our stories to the central team for screening, editing, checking of translation etc.
We are also illustrating some of our stories, an interesting process and a lot of fun.
As soon as our stories appear on the ASP web-site, we will let you know!
Our plan for next year is two-fold:
(i) we want to get some of our stories into the local schools, so we are looking at having two of our stories made into print form and distributed. We think that we may have found some funding for this, we will let you know!
(ii) We would like to have book-making sessions with our Paleng children. Now that story telling is a regular part of our activities, we would like children to write down and illustrate the stories that they have told us, and to create new ones.
Of course we will continue to be a pilot site and to produce stories for the African Storybook Project, but we would like to spread our wings just a little bit further J
Donations towards printing and distribution costs of little books, and towards stationery for children for book-making (specifically paper, cardboard, scissors and magazines (for collages) would be wonderful.