The goal of the African Storybook Project (ASP), an initiative of the South African Institute for Distance Education (Saide), is to draw on advances in digital technology to promote the multilingual literacy of children in sub-Saharan Africa. Open access digital stories, in African languages and English, are currently being developed for the three pilot countries of South Africa, Uganda, and Kenya. The stories are being uploaded on a comprehensive website, available for use not only in the pilot countries, but also in other African countries and beyond. Dr. Bonny Norton, as well as other members of the Department of Language and Literacy Education (former and current), are active in this groundbreaking project. Of particular note is Dr. Juliet Tembe, the ASP in-country Coordinator of Uganda, who graduated with a PhD from LLED in 2008. Having been appointed Research Advisor on the African Storybook Project, Bonny Norton is helping to set up a research network that will advance the goals of the ASP. The African Storybook Research Network (ASReN) will soon be accessible on the ASP website. Bonny is also Chair of the ASP Research Advisory Committee, comprising members from the University of Cape Town, Makerere University, and Oxford University. The project has huge implications for educational change in sub-Saharan Africa. Please spread the word! Related UBC news story here.
Apart from our African partners and LLED representation at the ASP colloquium, other members of the LLED community are active in the ASP. Sam Andema, currently a PhD candidate in LLED, attended the ASP storytelling workshop held in Nairobi in August, 2013, prior to the Pan African Conference on Reading, and has already made important contributions to the project. Espen Stranger-Johannessen, currently a PhD student in LLED, also attended the storytelling workshop, and is playing a crucial role as Webmaster of the ASP research network. He will be doing his PhD research on the project in Uganda. Doris Abiria, a recent MA graduate from LLED, and Coordinating Tutor at Arua Primary Teachers’ College, is participating in the implementation of the ASP in Uganda.
The ASReN was launched at the Peter Wall Colloquium Abroad held in Stellenbosch, South Africa, in October, 2013, co-organized by Bonny Norton and Tessa Welch, the ASP Project Leader from Saide. There were 40 participants at the colloquium, from 7 African countries (Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda). Other UBC participants at the colloquium were Penny Moanakwena, currently a PhD candidate in LLED and faculty member at the University of Botswana, as well as Dr. Marlene Asselin, a professor in LLED. Dr. Shelley Jones, another LLED PhD graduate, represented the Aga Khan University Institute of Educational Development in Tanzania. Amongst other projects, the colloquium was privileged to host representatives from the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, which seeks to advance Nelson Mandela’s remarkable legacy in Africa and worldwide. The keynote address was given by Brent Kaulback of the South Slave Divisional Education Council of the Northwest Territories, one of the highlights of the colloquium.