The LILIEMA literacy programme

As a direct social impact of the project, we developed the ground-breaking language-independent literacy programme LILIEMA. LILIEMA stands for “Language-independent literacies for for inclusive education in multilingual areas”. LILIEMA constitutes the first written teaching programme realising a languaging approach.

The creation of the programme stems from the highly diverse setting of Casamance and most areas of West Africa. The Crossroads languages, and many other languages in the wider region, are small, village- or polity-based languages.  While there is a growing movement of recognising national languages through their standardisation, their use in education remains limited in scope and has low uptake, because of small speaker numbers, lack of resources and burden on multilingual learners to acquire several distinct language-based literacies.

At the same time, many West African writers do read and write, but in forms of literacy that are not recognised as such or viewed pejoratively. These grassroots literacies they practise are old, such as the writing of African languages in Arabic characters, or new, such as Facebook posts, text messages, graffiti and signage in the linguistic landscapes using the Roman alphabet. What they have in common is that they are as mono-or multilingual as their writers and readers. This flexibility entails that they do not uphold strict boundaries between languages, as done in standardised writing practice. The same principles underlie the transcription of multilingual data in the Crossroads corpus by our transcriber team. Building on this, we developed LILIEMA (Lüpke 2018, Lüpke et al forthcoming). LILIEMA is inspired by the actual existing grassroots literacies so that they can be used in multilingual classrooms, rather than continuing a language-based approach to education that is always based on a selection of languages and hence creates exclusion. LILIEMA is currently being extended and will constitute the project’s main lasting legacy in Senegal.