A ten-day workshop, called “Principles, Practice and Planning for Multilingual Education” was held in three locations, with ten invited representatives from each of the ten states of South Sudan participating. These workshops were held in three locations: Wau for participants from the four States of Greater Bahr El Ghazal (Western Bahr El Ghazal, Northern Bahr El Ghazal, Warrap and Lakes), Malakal for participants from Greater Upper Nile (Unity, Upper Nile, and Jonglei) and Maridi for those from Equatoria (Central, Eastern and Western Equatoria). Participants were selected by their respective State Ministries of Education, based on criteria including knowledge of local languages and the linguistic make-up of their State, educational level and involvement in the education sector in the State. It was hoped that there would be a variety and cross-section of language communities from each State represented. In the end, the actual number of participants from each state was as follows:
15 representing Upper Nile State
6 representing Jonglei State
7 representing Unity State
4 representing Lakes State
9 representing Northern Bahr El Ghazal State
7 representing Warrap State
12 representing Western Bahr El Ghazal State
10 representing Central Equatoria State
10 representing Eastern Equatoria State
14 representing Western Equatoria State
A total of 94 State Ministry of Education representatives, along with two representatives from education-focused NGOs, participated in the workshops. There were representatives from 30 different language communities.
The workshops were planned and facilitated by two members of the Department of National Languages as well as two technical advisors from the South Sudan Branch of SIL International.
Workshop topics included both “big picture” subjects on the pedagogical benefits of mother tongue based multilingual education and how it has been implemented in other countries around the world, practical topics of literacy teaching methodology and materials development, as well as topics specific to the South Sudanese context, such as the South Sudan language policy, and specific stakeholder and institutional relationships within South Sudan. Full reports of each of the three workshops can be obtained from the Department of National Languages.
While the above mentioned topics served as a foundation to building a system to implement the language and education policy in South Sudan, one of the most valuable, interesting and engaging topics of the workshop was a form of language assessment and survey in which participants collectively mapped the current language situation in their own states. At the same time, other sociolinguistic data was collected on the status of the conditions and resources needed for the implementation of multilingual education in each state.
On the first day of the workshop, participants were introduced to the concept of language domains. In order to draw their attention to the multilingual context in which they live every day, they were asked to do an analysis of which language they use in various domains such as home and family, school, mass media, business and the market, government, and cultural and religious activities. This domain analysis also helped participants see very clearly the complex multilingual situation in South Sudan, as many of the domains required different languages, including English, Arabic and many of the South Sudanese national languages.
During the domain analysis, it also became clear that in most of South Sudan, there are, at minimum, two languages in use, each being used in different domains. Often, three or four languages are used by the same person in different domains. For example, the same person might use one or two South Sudanese languages at home, at church, in the market place, at work, plus English and/or Arabic for education and government. The challenge, then, becomes deciding which languages should be promoted for use in each of these domains, and more specifically, which languages should be chosen for development for early primary education.
An assignment was given to each of the workshop participants to collect data on the environmental, systemic and language specific resource requirements for each of the language communities in their area. Questions were developed to collect, for example, the type of information as given below:
Are stakeholders aware of and supportive of current language policies in your area?
Do language committees or other organizations exist in your language community?
Who could be involved in language and materials development?
Are there teachers trained to use the Mother Tongue? If so, where did they receive this training?
Is there an accepted orthography?
What materials exist already (i.e. ABC Books, grammar, dictionaries etc.)?
All of the information was collected and recorded by the facilitation team from the Department of National Languages and written into the reports of each workshop for later analysis.
Following the domain analysis, participants were given the opportunity to map their knowledge of the linguistic situation of their states, using participatory mapping methods, as outlined by Chambers () in his Participatory Rural Appraisal methods. Participatory mapping has been used to a great extent through the past decades for everything from locations of water points and sanitation, to mapping of locations of crimes in an effort to reduce the risk of victimization. Participatory mapping has also been used by indigenous communities to document their “historical and cultural association to the land” (IFAD , p. 5). The facilitators of the workshops in South Sudan saw an opportunity in participatory mapping to access the knowledge of the participants themselves.
Participants worked together as state groups and were given a large piece of flip-chart paper and markers. Beginning with the rural areas, they were asked to draw a map of their state, marking the areas where each language was used, and how the languages were mixed. They were asked to mark how the languages were mixed in each area according to three labels - territorial (where there are clear lines between each language area), clustering (where a particular language is spoken by a cluster of people within a larger language grouping), or integrated (where two or more languages are spoken by people who are fully integrated with each other). These labels were first introduced in South Sudan by Ian Smith, Buani Consulting.
After drafts of the maps were drawn, each state group presented their maps to the larger group for comments and feedback. Digital photos of each of the maps were taken for the Department of National Languages to keep a record of the work done, and for future reference and analysis. The original maps were given to representatives of their respective States, giving the participants ownership over their original maps (Chambers ).
These maps enabled both the participant representatives from the State Ministries of Education, as well as the facilitators from the Department of National Languages and SIL to better understand the language situation in each of the ten states.
While the percentage of people living in urban centers in South Sudan is very low (perhaps only around 2% of the population, according to NSCSE ()), these towns and cities are generally composed of people from many different language communities, living side by side. Because of this complexity in the language situation in the urban areas, these urban areas were not mapped, but were analyzed through a series of questions which participants answered for each of the urban centers in their State. Participants answered questions about which languages are used in the towns, the percentage of people speaking those languages, and the languages known by children entering school. Suggestions were also collected from the participants on any common languages spoken by all urban children and which languages could be used as a medium of instruction for early primary school.
It was clear from these questions that the majority of the children entering school did not know English before they came to school, but instead knew their own mother tongue, a different South Sudanese language which was spoken in the town as a lingua franca, a local variety of Arabic, or a combination of all of the above.
While the mapping exercise and questionnaires were effective and efficient ways to get a good overview of the language situation throughout South Sudan, they do not give a complete picture of the linguistic map. Logistically, it was not possible to get representatives from each and every language community in South Sudan to participate. It was found that some of the little-known language communities (such as the Uduk) who are known to live in South Sudan were not mentioned or were said to live in the Republic of Sudan. Further, it must also be acknowledged that some of the data is also based on the individual participants' perceptions of what constitutes a “language” or a “dialect”.
Through the mapping exercise, it was also found that some languages from the Northern Bahr el Ghazal and the Equatoria regions had been left out of the list of ethnic groups which is attached to the Interim Southern Sudan Constitution. It is still necessary, and recommended in documentation of the workshops, that further participatory mapping be done to collect more detailed data from each state, county and payam (village).