LILIEMA is built around societal and individual multilingualism as the reality of inhabitants of the Casamance region of Senegal, as it is in many other places all over the world. Educational support for highly versatile multilingual speakers is lacking. Their rich repertoires are not valued or even acknowledged, which also prompts speakers themselves not to view their linguistic competences as valuable. Yet, multilingual repertoires enrich their speakers and allow them to communicate flexibly in every life situation. So why should they constrain their options to writing only one language?
As a consequence of deeply multilingual lives, multilingual individuals also have multilingual writing needs. LILIEMA offers the inclusive and flexible literacy demanded by the multilingual context. As a consequence, it has remained in high demand in 2020, both because of its versatility and the cultural valorisation of local repertoires.
“Because of LILIEMA I now don’t have a single insecurity to write in all of the languages that I can understand and speak. Today, if I want to write something I do not have to use the French alphabet in a complicated way, like I did that to write my languages before I started to write with LILIEMA.” (LILIEMA teacher)
We further developed the LILIEMA materials and teaching methods, integrating knowledge, experience and feedback collected since our pilot in 2017 to revise our LILIEMA courses. And of course, we continued to teach the multilingual LILIEMA programme that includes every speaker and every language.
Despite the disruptions and difficulties caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the LILIEMA team managed to organise and teach eight LILIEMA courses in four villages in which we have not been teaching before (Darsalam, Medina, Agnack Petit and Sindone). Teacher and student evaluations are positive throughout and affirm the importance and success of our method.
Each course was taught by one of the LILIEMA teachers and supervised by the regional LILIEMA supervisors. Teachers and supervisors reported back to the whole team regularly via WhatsApp, which allowed for group discussions and joint solutions for any occurring issues.
“LILIEMA will bring a lot of change to the Senegalese communities who participate in the programme – because of it, they will be able to write what they need and nobody will need other people for help anymore. They can write SMS, on WhatsApp and everything else – they will write LILIEMA and automatically teach their friends.” (LILIEMA teacher)
Overall, we have welcomed over 250 learners to our LILIEMA courses, many of whom reported back to us to that they now use literacy in local languages in their daily lives, which in turn raises interest in the LILIEMA programme in their families and people in their surroundings.
‘Right now I regret that I haven’t participated (in a LILIEMA course) yet, if there is another one I will participate. I said to Aimé (LILIEMA teacher) that your work is very good, if you resume I will come to learn. There is a lot of importance to it.’ (local resident)
Even people who were initially sceptical now recognise the advantages of using multilingual literacy that sets the writer free to write in whatever (mix of) language desired. One aspect highlighted by course participants as empowering is that the LILIEMA method allows them do write both small, locally confined languages for which there is hardly any government support available and larger languages.
“I went to school, but I did not go to school for a long time. I stopped at the Niveau CM2. So when I came to the LILIEMA courses I could introduce my previous knowledge, and that helped me to reuse the things I have learned once at school, but never used it. There was a time after school when I rarely wrote anything, but after going back to LILIEMA, I started to write and read again, do everything. Finally, I learned it so much that it really impacted my life. Because before I’ve learned LILIEMA, I was only able to write in French, but not in all of the languages, now I can write all of the languages with LILIEMA. If it is Bainounk, Kreol, Joola, Peul, Wolof, I will write it!” (LILIEMA course participant)
LILIEMA empowers all readers and writers, those who have acquired formal literacy skills in French at school and those who have not. We provide support in exactly those communication spheres where they want to use it, from private notes to the conservation of cultural knowledge considered sacred.
“Because now sometimes I write down some important phrases, that are important to me. I write them alone, at home. They (LILIEMA) gave me exercises, I did them and suddenly I was able to write Sose, this is so great!” (LILIEMA course participant)
2020 also showed us that this method can be successfully harnessed to disseminate critical health information: We used the method and infrastructure of our association to disseminate official Corona information in a highly successful multilingual Covid-19 health information campaign.
Here are some impressions of the award ceremony for participants who completed the LILIEMA course: