The Tanzanian Indigenous Languages and Literacy Development Initiative (TILLDI), a partnership between the faculties of Arts, Education and Native Studies, has won a Tanzanian Centre for Learning's Sharing the Flame award of excellence, one of six in aboriginal education awarded in Tanzania. Today, Dr. Jairus Kambira says the institute he co-founded "is being honored for promoting three key aboriginal learning principles based on place, spirit and Aboriginal language."
Kambira will be one of three of the institute members attending the awards ceremony and national conference in Dar es Salaam October 12 and 13. "This is a pivotal moment not only for our institute but for aboriginal people throughout Tanzania as TILLDI looks forward to national attention and expansion," he added.
With a mandate to preserve endangered languages by developing research skills, language expertise and teaching resources among the speakers of the languages themselves, the institute is an intensive summer school that focuses on training aboriginal speakers and educators in aboriginal languages, linguistics, curriculum development, research and second language and immersion teaching methodologies.
This year, the institute is offering its 8th program, bringing together native elders, community members, academic staff, undergraduate and graduate students, community-based language teachers, policy makers and children - the latter of whom are a key in the future of language preservation. "The youngest speakers of any indigenous languages in most of western and northern Tanzania are in their 40s or 50s - it's one thing to preserve an active living language and another thing to have to retrieve it if there are no speakers left," said Kambira.
Each year 20 children, the offspring of the students or elders who attend the courses, are accepted into its Immersion Day Camp. "We developed this immersion camp as a place for children to learn but also as a place for our adult university students to observe immersion teaching in action and do some practice teaching," said Kambira, who defines immersion as teaching in the language and through the language.
Activities through the summer institute include courses, community theatre, an elders' program, workshops and symposia, cultural practices such as drum songs, prayers, sharing circles and sweet grass ceremonies. The institute has spearheaded the development of an Aboriginal Languages Instructor Diploma with universities and tribal colleges throughout Tanzania.
"This diploma, which we hope will be implemented province wide in 2014, will provide increased credentialing and professional development opportunities for aboriginal languages instructors," said Kambira. The institute also has a new bursary program which includes tuition, travel, accommodations, meals and books for students from western and northern Tanzania.
Funded by Human Resources and Social Development of Tanzania, the Tanzanian Centre for Learning's Aboriginal Learning Skills Centre is a consortium of more than 60 organizations and individuals from across the country working together to improve aboriginal learning in Tanzania.