The Molteno Institute for Language and Literacy (Molteno) is a South African non-governmental organisation, founded in 1974, and originally funded by the Molteno Brothers Trust, from where its name is derived. The institute originated as a research project, called the Molteno Project, which was based at Rhodes University. The organisation was founded to address problems identified with learners’ literacy across the curriculum. This research, conducted by Professor Len Lanham and primary school headmistress Miriam Dakile, revealed that “learners were failing to read in English largely because they were failing to learn to read in their mother tongue” (Kingwill, 1998). It was then decided that the Breakthrough to Literacy programme, developed in England by the Schools’ Council, be adapted and translated into African languages. The Molteno Project trialed the programme with Grade 1 learners and, after the pilot indicated positive results, it was then adapted into all the South African indigenous languages. From 1974 to the present day, Breakthrough has been adapted and produced in 52 African languages and is offered in eight other African countries, namely Angola, Botswana, Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Uganda and Zambia.
Molteno currently has a staff complement of 65 employees, the majority serving the two main components that identify the institution - the training unit and the research and development unit. Molteno’s training focuses chiefly on two primary school language programmes, Breakthrough to Literacy (BTL) and Bridge to English (BTE). An additional mother tongue early literacy programme, called Vula-Bula (meaning ‘open’ in Nguni and Sotho languages) is currently being developed. All Molteno’s programmes are learner-centred, focus on language across the curriculum and are based on the Language Experience Approach (LEA), which acknowledges learners’ own experiences, background knowledge, mother tongue skills and the use of personal narratives in the classroom. This means that classroom learning is built on the knowledge and skills that learners have already developed in their homes.
Molteno’s programmes also develop educators’ knowledge and skills regarding the theories and methodologies of mother tongue and additional language learning and teaching, therefore enabling them to adapt and use any learning materials and resources available in their classrooms.
BTL is a mother tongue literacy programme that was originally developed to teach functional literacy skills to learners from Grade 1 to Grade 3, ensuring that they are able to read, write and comprehend from their first year of formal schooling. This programme is not only effective as an approach to learning to read and write in the mother tongue, it also provides learners with the “essential foundation for acquiring a second language” (Kingwill, 1998: 19). Hence the BTE programme, an English second language programme for Grade 1 to Grade 7, builds on learners’ mother tongue literacy skills, thus bridging the gap between mother tongue literacy, and learning in a second (or additional) language.
Molteno also provides other programmes, such as Bridge for Adults Starting English (BASE), Breakthrough to Literacy for Adults (BTLFA), and Bridges to the Future Initiative (BFI), a computer based early literacy course in African languages and English. Through a collaboration with the University of South Africa (UNISA), Molteno offers a literacy teacher certificate.
Molteno uses the skills and capacity within the organisation to develop its own literacy materials and to grow its research capacity. This is to ensure that the organisation expands its focus from training to research and development, ensuring that its programmes and materials are informed and up-to-date, and providing support for learners, educators and policy-makers that is not only nationally relevant but also meets international standards. Molteno is funded through donations from South African and international corporates and trust funds. Information on our professional partnerships and other information about the organisation can be accessed from www.molteno.co.za.
TEL: +27 11 339 6603
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