The impact of language policy and practice on children's learning: Evidence from Eastern and Southern Africa

The language environment in the Eastern and Southern Region of Africa is rich and dynamic. Many African languages, including Amharic, Kirundi, Swahili, isiZulu, Kinyarwanda, Chichewa, Luganda, Kikuyu, Malagasy, Oromo, and Somali are spoken as mother tongues by millions of African citizens. Some may also serve as regional and national languages. In addition to these large language communities, are many hundreds of smaller and less wellrecognized African languages. Layered over this richly diverse linguistic environment are a handful of international languages, introduced to the continent as colonial languages and now more or less integrated into the language ecology of the continent.

The attitudes of Eastern and Southern Africa’s citizens towards their local languages are largely positive. More than 80 per cent of the region’s 400+ languages are used regularly in their speech communities and passed on to the children of those communities (Lewis, Simons and Fennig 2014). Though colonial rule resulted in the presence of prestigious international languages in many national systems, those languages have not replaced African mother tongues in the lives of the great majority of citizens of the region.

Barbara Trudell
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
National language and book policies
East Africa
Southern Africa
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