Language, education and development : a review of Norad’s support to the Centre for Advanced Studies of African Society (CASAS)
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In June/July 2006, Norad commissioned a review of its support to the Centre for Advanced Studies of African Society (CASAS), which is a non-profit making trust established in 1997 in Cape Town South Africa. CASAS sets out to promote the use of indigenous African languages as the mother tongue or familiar language in education, cultural empowerment and scientific and technological development in Africa. The purpose of the review was, among other tings, to assess the relevance and impact of CASAS’ work and look into the role CASAS is playing in the field of language of instruction on the African continent. The general impression of the review is a very positive one. In terms of output, impact and relevance, the review team has concluded that CASAS’ activities, in particular its production of scientific and academic materials, have so far been very impressive and indeed significant on the promotion of the use of African languages in education, science and technological development in the continent. Significantly, CASAS has developed a scientific methodology of the harmonization of indigenous African languages; a methodology which is currently being used to produce harmonized orthographies for the cluster of languages and dialects which share a high degree of mutual intelligibility. To date, CASAS has published harmonized orthographies for 9 languages in Africa. Moreover, the harmonization approach employed by CASAS was also observed to be effective in preserving smaller and lesser-used languages from extinction. Furthermore, through its networks of linguists and language specialists CASAS has also stimulated and encouraged academic work in terms of research in African languages. In brief, CASAS activities have laid a foundation whose impact and relevance in Africa is both multidimensional and long term. It represents an indispensable necessary first step towards the implementation of the ADEA and AU policies for the improvement of the quality of education in Africa through the use of African languages. Last, but not least, the technical expertise developed by CASAS will also be useful and needed by ACALAN in its agenda to pursue the promotion of cross border languages in Africa. The main area of concern from the review was the dissemination of the harmonized orthographies and other materials produced by CASAS. In this regard, the report calls on CASAS to develop an effective strategy to reach out to the end users; mainly to identify and work in collaboration with all organisations – public and private, secular and religious, as well as organisations at the local, national and regional/continental level, that have been involved in the promotion of African languages.