Supporting mother tongue literacy for refugees in Chad – Eunice Kua

Eunice Kua was facilitating mother tongue literacy programs among Darfur refugees in eastern Chad prior to coming to CIE. She reflects on her experience here:


I was fortunate to be in a project where people were so enthusiastic about literacy in Massalit, their mother tongue. They were eager to learn everything they could, but also proud and happy to know that their minority language could be read and written, just like any other ‘international language’ in the world.


My role was mainly in teacher training and materials development. I worked with a team of refugee trainers-in-training to design and deliver pre-service and in-service teacher training workshops for adult/community literacy teachers and for school teachers who were teaching mother tongue literacy as a subject in refugee primary schools.


Developing the workshops was necessarily a collaborative effort, since I was the technical advisor in terms of learning theory and principles of pedagogy and andragogy, but they knew the context and capabilities of the teachers and of course spoke the language much better than me—we all had different things to bring to the table. I was the de facto leader of the training teams, and I tried to maintain a balance between ‘outsider’ and ‘insider’ ideas and perspectives, while at the same time keeping things on track and making the best use of limited resources and time constraints.


I still wonder whether we could have pushed the envelope even more in terms of discussing deep issues about the design of the workshops and thinking about different ways to deliver various types of training. However, we were always pressed for time, and I am proud of the model we developed over the course of 35+ workshops in 7 years, as class observations showed that teachers really did practice the active learning techniques and methods that we trained them to use, even with the many challenges they faced such as large class sizes.


A lot of the credit for the effectiveness, though, goes to the literacy and school teachers, many of whom were in their late teens and early 20’s. I worked with so many intelligent and capable young people who still have very few opportunities to further their education, being refugees. I saw it as a real waste of potential and was glad that many of them were trying to serve their communities by teaching, trying to share what they had learned with others.


I came away with many questions about how best to support these refugee teachers, whether in formal or nonformal education settings, as well as school leaders and literacy supervisors, local literacy committees, etc. The mother tongue literacy program that we facilitated in 2 refugee camps was taken up by refugees in other camps who spoke the same language—they started their own literacy initiatives without any external funding and just some minimal technical assistance from our program. How can we better support these truly community-based initiatives?


I hope to find some of these answers during my time here at CIE!



Eunice is a 1st year Master’s student at CIE. Most recently she helped create class libraries consisting of local language materials in metal boxes to support literacy learning in 14 primary schools and 5 refugee camps in eastern Chad.