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A Culturally Sensitive Approach to Promoting Initial Literacy Development in Africa: Ongoing and Planned Research and Development at the University of Zambia’s Centre for Promotion of Literacy in Sub-Saharan Africa (CAPOLSA)

  • Robert SerpellEmail author
  • Jacqueline Jere-Folotiya
  • Tamara Chansa-Kabali
  • Jonathan Munachaka
  • Mwanza Nakawala Maumbi
  • Christopher Yalukanda
  • Francis Sampa
  • Heikki Lyytinen
Chapter

Abstract

A four-year research and development program at CAPOLSA (the Centre for the Promotion of Literacy in Sub-Saharan Africa) was inspired by widespread dissatisfaction with poor literacy outcomes of mass basic schooling in Zambia and sought to test the generalizability of a scientifically grounded, computer-mediated instructional resource developed in Finland, for effective intervention in an African society where different linguistic and educational conditions obtain. Specific challenges and opportunities posed by the local sociocultural context included the prevalence of multilingualism, the relatively transparent orthographies of local languages, and poor infrastructure of the public school system. Software was translated and field-tested under ecologically realistic conditions. Complementary influences on initial literacy learning were systematically explored of children’s home literacy environments, teachers’ attitudes and practices, biological and social constraints on learning among children with special needs, curriculum development, and teacher training. Complementary instructional resource development focused on creation of child-friendly reading materials in seven indigenous languages, translation of stories across those languages, harmonization of their orthographies, and exploring the potential of multiple media for dissemination of literacy materials. Effective application of scientific and technological innovations to educational policy and practice called for systematic coordination of insights from multiple disciplines to situate developmental science within sociocultural context.

Keywords

Literacy development Centre for the Promotion of Literacy in Sub-Saharan Africa (CAPOLSA) Innovation Educational policy Indigenous language Applied developmental science Zambia Technology development Medium of instruction Orthography Multilingualism GraphoGame Socioeconomic status Schools 

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Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Serpell
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jacqueline Jere-Folotiya
    • 1
  • Tamara Chansa-Kabali
    • 1
  • Jonathan Munachaka
    • 2
  • Mwanza Nakawala Maumbi
    • 3
  • Christopher Yalukanda
    • 4
  • Francis Sampa
    • 5
  • Heikki Lyytinen
    • 6
  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentUniversity of ZambiaLusakaZambia
  2. 2.Department of Educational Psychology Sociology and Special EducationUniversity of ZambiaLusakaZambia
  3. 3.Center for the Promotion of Literacy in Sub-Saharan AfricaUniversity of ZambiaLusakaZambia
  4. 4.Zambia National Union of TeachersLusakaZambia
  5. 5.USAID/Zambia Read To Succeed ProjectLusakaZambia
  6. 6.Department of PsychologyUniversity of JyväskyläJyväskylän yliopistoFinland

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