Long-distance relationships: Exploring the benefits and challenges for mother tongue literacy work in a language cluster project

This research considers staff members’ experiences of mother tongue literacy work in the Mbeya-Iringa Cluster Project. Through examining these experiences, and staff’s reactions to and reflections on the work, this research explores some of the key benefits and challenges for mother tongue literacy work in a language cluster project. ‘Clustering’ as an organisational strategy has become increasingly popular in SIL International’s work over recent years. Whilst people have considered the impact of this strategy on other aspects of language work, little attention has been given to how it may affect literacy specifically. This research helps to fill that gap, using a qualitative methodology based on interviews with 30 current and former staff members. Interviewees cited challenges such as the large distances involved, the amount of concurrent work, working as part of a large team, the interaction between departments and the increased amount of administration. Benefits identified include the chance to share experiences and responsibility for the work, the opportunity to build sustainability, the ability to attract resources and the general scope of the work. Overall this research demonstrates that whilst there are many challenges to literacy in a cluster context, many benefits are available where these challenges are adequately addressed. The key to successfully tackling these challenges is the development of strong relationships within clear management structures. Both these areas should be prioritised so as to allow literacy work to thrive within a language cluster.
v, 64 p.
Table of Contents:
Abstract i Acknowledgements ii Glossary iii 1. Setting the scene 1 SIL 1 Choosing where to begin 2 2. What is clustering and why do it? 3 The history of clusters and their development 3 Towards a definition of a ‘cluster’ 5 Benefits and challenges of clustering 8 Why this research is needed 10 A brief history of the Mbeya-Iringa Cluster Project 11 3. My position and approach 15 Rationale and research aim 15 Personal position 15 Ontology and epistemology 15 Research questions 16 Methodologies 16 Research strategy 17 Research methods 18 Interview practicalities 19 4. The benefits and challenges for literacy 21 Introduction 21 Challenges 22 Challenge one: working across large areas 22 Challenge two: relationships and communication over large distances 24 Challenge three: the volume of work 27 Challenge four: personnel issues – expatriate staff 29 Challenge five: personnel issues – Tanzanian staff 31 Challenge six: the interaction of departments 34 Challenge seven: administration 36 Benefits 37 Benefit one: the opportunity to share knowledge, experience, successes and challenges 37 Benefit two: the opportunity to build sustainability 39 Benefit three: the ability to attract staff and funding 41 Benefit four: the efficient use of resources 42 Benefit five: the breadth of the work 44 Further reflections 45 5. What we can learn 47 Reflecting on the process 47 Unlocking the data 49 References 52 Appendix A – Mbeya-Iringa Cluster Project details 57 Figure 1: MICP map 57 Table 1: Language area information 58 Table 2: Full-time literacy department staff over the life of the project 59 Figure 2: MICP Organisational Chart (January 2012) 60 Appendix B – Interview details 61 Table 1: Interviewees (in the order interviewed) 61 Figure 1: Interview questions 62
mother tongue based
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