What Is Mother tongue Literacy?
The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) defines literacy as: “The ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society” (UNESCO, 2004 p.13)
In this sense, reading and writing are not themselves end goals, but rather they are tools that can enable communities to achieve their desired development goals.
However, speakers of minority languages often face challenges with respect to acquiring the tools of reading and writing:
- Minority language speakers do not speak the language used in government education, information or technology
- In order to succeed in education, minority language speakers must sacrifice their own linguistic and cultural heritage (UNESCO Bangkok, 2004 pg. 6)
Many international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including ILAD, affirm the right for minority language speakers to receive education in a language they speak and understand. Therefore, ILAD works among adults in minority language communities to build a strong literacy foundation in the mother tongue, enabling community members to “participate fully in their community.” A strong literacy foundation in the mother tongue can then be used as a bridge to literacy in a governmental language or language of wider communication, enabling individuals to fully participate in wider society, understanding and taking control of the world around them.
 UNESCO. The Plurality of Literacy and its Implications for Policies and Programmes. UNESCO Education Sector Position Paper. Paris: UNESCO.
 UNESCO Bangkok. 2004. Manual for Developing Literacy and Adult Education Programmes in Minority Language Communities.
Why Is Literacy Important? - Nearly one billion of the world’s population is illiterate. - The highest percentages of illiteracy are concentrated in impoverished nations in Africa and Asia. - Approximately two-thirds of illiterates are women. - Literacy is more than the ability to read and write; it impacts everyday life. It EMPOWERS. Such empowerment includes the capacity to:
- Participate in community and government, i.e. vote knowledgeably
- Procure additional and better manage financial resources, i.e. understand and demand fair market prices, open bank accounts and manage money, etc.
- Promote self-esteem and personal dignity
Literacy & ILAD
ILAD engages in language development programs that promote the reading and writing of local languages through literacy classes and literacy teacher trainings with the purposes of:
- Training individuals, particularly women, to read and write
- Educating mothers in order to alleviate poverty
- Encouraging adults to educate both their peers and the next generation
Kodjo is a farmer who works in the fields prior to making an eight kilometer journey to literacy class. Although he is of a different ethnic group than his classmates, Kodjo is passionate about becoming literate and sharing the gift of literacy with his own people. Even prior to completing the class, he began translating materials into his mother tongue.
Afi never attended school prior to enrolling in ILAD’s literacy program. During her five-month course, she learned to read and write in her own language. Afi applied her newfound skills to her agricultural business and has experienced a dramatic improvement in her economic situation.