“Matayo is what in English?” On experiences of English medium instruction in rural Ugandan classrooms


The question of using English as a language of learning and teaching (LoLT) has been around for some time, but limited studies have been conducted in Africa’s multilingual context to understand the challenges involved. In this paper, I attempt to demonstrate the difficulties in the classroom interactions between teachers and learners in four rural primary schools in which the mother tongue is the LoLT for the first three years of primary school, followed by a transition to English as the LoLT during the fourth year and English only from the fifth year onwards. Based on fieldwork conducted in two private and two public schools in Kyotera District, Uganda, this paper investigates classroom practices related to the use of English as the LoLT. Data were collected through questionnaires, classroom observations and interviews and were analysed using a triangulation approach to determine disparities between what the teachers report in the questionnaires and interviews and what the language policy and curriculum require of their classroom practice. The findings demonstrate that both teachers and learners struggle with the English language in negotiating learning. Moreover, learners are mostly comfortable responding to questions posed to them in English in their mother tongue. Teachers’ involvement of learners in the learning process is largely by cues, calling for only a word in English—an indication of learners’ inefficiency in the language. The paper discusses the implications of these findings. Key words: Mother tongue education, transition, classroom practices, English medium education, Luganda, Uganda


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Author Biography

Medadi E. Ssentanda, Makerere University & Stellenbosch University
LecturerAfrican Languages DepartmentSchool of Languages, Literature and CommunicationMakerere University