After starting the day off with breakfast followed by community work, Lynne began by reading the insights and questions from the previous day. One of the questions raised was, ‘Unity exists, so what is blocking it.’ Nomvelo, Hombakazi and Primadonna then performed a song to start the morning session.

Our first speaker, Susan Nyaga from Kenya, SIL International Senior Literacy & Education Consultant lead a presentation on the importance of Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MTBMLE). She defined the mother tongue as the language through which a child first learns to express himself as well as the language through which a person perceives the world around him. Considering that the child learns best when taught in his mother tongue, more needs to be done to facilitate education through means of the home language whilst in the school environment. Susan stated that MTBMLE is neither a new nor isolated concept, with the topic preoccupying educational conferences for over five years globally. She said that the minority language child is often made to feel ashamed of his mother tongue, the consequences of which include these children denouncing their culture, some to the point of even disowning their family, all in a bid to align themselves with the majority language speakers. The harsh reality is that when society rejects a child’s mother tongue, they are in truth, rejecting the child. Susan then read the poem ‘My Language, My Home.’ She then shared some statistics regarding language around the world. There are ±6700 languages around the world. Only 62% of the population has access to education in their mother tongue. Out of 524 countries, African languages are only recognised in only 10. Arabic is recognised in 9 of those countries. 221 school going aged children are first language speakers of languages not recognised in the school system. In Sub-Saharan Africa, only 3% of the population are educated in their mother tongue. Children who begin learning in their home language are more likely to learn a second language more thoroughly, learn to read quicker and are more likely to participate in the classroom activities.

Before lunch, participants broke into their reading groups and held discussions on those readings. After lunch, Catherine Kennedy from Cornerstone Montessori shared some information about the Montessori Centre of Minnesota (MCM) and how the Cornerstone project came about. Cornerstone began in 2008 as a pilot project and is a thriving community which has two Infant Communities and a Children’s House environment. Catherine shared a series of slides showing the children engaging in the environment and then shared a video with us, which gave feedback from parents as well as the adults in the environment and what Cornerstone means to them. The school embraces mother tongue language and parent involvement in the school itself. 

Kathleen Guinan, CEO of Crossway, did a presentation on Bridging Generations through Montessori. She asked participants to think of education in a different way.  Thinking of the schooling system as social capital. Kathleen is an advocate for radical hospitality, believing that the spirit of hospitality allows one to enter the hearts of others. She explained that the campus she is involved with hosts a Children’s House, Integrated apartments and an Elders House. The community involves a volunteer program where work is given not just for employment but also for purposeful work, looked at through the lens of Montessori principles. Bridging generations involves co-creating spaces where diverse people can grow and live together. An example is involving integration between cognitively healthy individuals integrated with cognitively impaired individuals.

Our last speaker for the day Mignon Hardie, Executive Director of FUNDZA gave a presentation of Language as the Foundation of Community. Mignon started off with the concept that stories have the power to change. Stories have the ability to transform lives. She explained that FUNDZA is aimed at adolescents and young adults, to combat the high rate of illiteracy in South Africa. One of the difficulties is that 58% of households do not have books for reading pleasure. The average English marks for the grade 9 student’s is only 33.2% Matriculant students are unable to write in paragraphs, do not understand questions and do not have an understanding of vocabulary. FUNDZA aims to bring about change through supporting reading groups, supplying books with 500 groups supported. She brought up the possibilities of reaching people through cellphone literature, promoting language learning and encouraging writing for expression. Participants then did an exercise where they were asked to do free writing for 5 minutes on ‘My Reading Journey’ which they then shared among each other. Mignon supplied the participants with examples of FUNDZA publications to look through and then asked for feedback on what the participants thought. Examples of what stories worked were stories with relatable characters, exciting plots, clear, easy language and authentic plots that were not in a form of preaching.  After that, another free writing exercise on ‘Language and Me’ took place. At the end of the exercise, some of the participants of non English speaking language sang a song in their own language, well known by all participants who took part. Mignon concluded her presentation by asking the participant for their views on reaching readers through cell phones versus books or writing on paper. 

Before dinner, participants had a juggling demonstration which was much fun. Dinner was served and the assembly left to go their separate ways until morning.